While many of us have the best of intentions at the start of the year, we quickly fall into old habits. Once again we are searching for lost permission slips, dealing with homework hassles and running out the door stressed every morning.
So…what’s a parent to do?
Here’s your 5 steps to less school stress:
1. Look back before you look ahead!
Before this school year starts, take some time to figure out what “triggers” caused last year's chaos. Some of the school stresses parents share with me include:
kids not getting up on time
homework forgotten at home
lunches made during the morning rush
kids can’t find their shoes
projects aren’t done until the last minute
2. Brainstorm solutions to one problem at a time
Don't try to fix every problem all at once! Select one particular problem, gather everyone for a family meeting and let the kids know the goal of the meeting. You can phrase it something like:
"Remember how last year we had problems with homework and permission slips getting back to school on time? Well, none of us need that stress again so we are going to work on finding a solution and we'd love your ideas."
Tips for a successful family meeting:
Everyone's suggestions are considered with respect
Set a time limit on brainstorming to help keep you on track
No one idea is the RIGHT idea (you may actually blend a few ideas into one solution!)
Each person gets a chance to talk but no one should be made to talk
If someone decides not to participate, then they also lose the right to complain if they don't agree with the selected solution
Suggestions from the family members not directly involved in the problem may be your ticket to success because they have an "outsider's view" of the situation
Allow your kids to take notes as the meeting secretary, they'll feel equally important as the adults. These notes can then be referred to at a later time (See Step 5).
3. Keep it simple
As a team, agree to a single change and implement it. HINT: the easier the solution, the more likely everyone will stick with it!
4. Make the solution the new routine.
The meeting take away: “This is how we’re doing it from now on.”
The 2 keys to making it work?
If kids have a say in things, they are more willing to “buy into” the new routine. They will also argue less when reminded, “We all agreed that homework goes into the backpack as soon as it’s done.”
Most kids will only need a gentle reminder, and they’ll discover you nag them less when they follow through (a win-win for everyone!).
If parents continue to give gentle reminders about the new routine, usually kids will become consistent in implementing it.
Also, when parents acknowledge the kids making a positive change, it will reinforce the habit.
5. Evaluate the solution
After a few weeks, take time as a family to decide if the chosen solution is working. If the original problem is still an issue (i.e., homework is still not getting in the backpack), you can revisit some of the previously suggested ideas to consider them as a new solution.
Most importantly, remember there is a learning curve to any new routine. Be patient and be willing to be flexible (sometimes new routines need a bit of tweaking). Use this technique throughout the school year to teach your child goal setting, problem solving and cooperation…all skills that will benefit him for a lifetime!
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