new year, new routines

Every December 31st, people around the globe write a list of resolutions that will help them be the best version of themselves in the year ahead. Unfortunately, by the end of January, most people have failed themselves by neglecting their resolutions. But if you have school-aged kids, you’re lucky… you get to reboot every September.

Each school year rings in “newness:” New teachers, new clothes, new school supplies, and new routines. So here are my top 5 routine busters to help you and your child(ren) get (and stay) organized.

calendarize your life: Calendars help people see what’s happening next. This, in turn, helps limit tantrums (from the kids and adults alike)! Depending on the age of your child and the chaos in your life, you’ll need a different type of calendar. For little ones, I always loved Melissa & Doug’s magnetic calendars because they allow kids to begin developing a mathematical understanding of numbers, months, and holidays. For older kids, a fridge calendar may be just what need to see the days’ events at a glance (our family’s calendar is color coded and added to as events come up). For tech-savvy families, create and share a Google Calendar. The events will be visible to all family members and will automatically update when someone makes a change.

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get everyone to pitch in: There is no rule in child-rearing that states that the adults have to do it all. Why do think the word “chores” was invented? That said, everyone has got to pitch in. It doesn’t mean the work load will be equitable, but each family member should pitch in and help in an age-appropriate manner. What is age-appropriate you ask? Well, you know your kids best so you decide. But Your Modern Family has some great ideas to help you get the ball rolling. With our older children, we discussed the chores that need to get done each day and then we divided them accordingly (keeping in mind the kids’ schedules). At our teens’ age, we decided to compensate with money which helps build about financial independence.

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stay connected: During the school year, days quickly turn in to weeks, weeks turn in to months, and, before you know it, we’re back around at summer again. Don’t let the time get away from you. Step away from the hectic reality of life (and the glow of your devices) to make contact with your child(ren), your partner, and your tribe! Go beyond the “How was your day?” gibberish because, really, there is no good answer to that question. Dig a little deeper and ask more meaningful questions. My favorites are:

  • What did you do to make someone smile today?
  • If you could do today all over again, what would you have changed?
  • What is one thing you want to remember about today?

I haven’t cornered the market on great thought-provoking queries as I sometimes find myself asking the banal, “What did you learn today?” question. …And I’m not sure these moms have figured it out much better than I have, but they’ve got some prompts that might help you get started (though I would avoid any “tattle-type” questions myself). [Questions from Motherly and FabulesslyFrugal]

Here’s a bonus idea for staying connected with tweens. This idea directly correlates with the calendarize suggestions mentioned above: keep each other in the loop. Back in “little kid” days, my husband or I would be asked to “Bring the family ’round for dinner.” “Sure, no problem” we’d respond with the assumption that kids would enjoy the night out.  We’d load up the kids, grab a bottle of wine, and be on our way. But that is not the way to do it with tweens and teens. They’ve got their own agendas. So I suggest you start a family chat to help with those “I was just invited…” plans that come up at school and work. We’ve observed that the chat has alleviated a lot of stress because everyone knows what is coming (“We are going out to dinner with the Smith’s on Friday”) and reduces the inevitable parental taxi strain (“Can you drop us off at the movies at 7? Her mom will pick us up!”).

set up a lunch line: With the invention of refrigerators, lunch-making has never been easier. But I’m shocked at how many parents I catch complaining about having to wake up early to put together the day’s lunches. Stop it. There is a better way! Get everyone involved in making their own lunch. We started getting our kids to make their own lunches when they were 3 years-old. My husband would cut up stacks of veggies (and the kids would pick two different kinds) while I helped the kids slop mayo, mustard, and veggies on bread. The kids would fill reusable containers with yogurt, fruit salad, and/or fruit juice and they’d toss in some cutlery. Done! Now that they are teens, it’s even easier. I make the salads (for the adults) while one kid makes sandwiches or portions out leftovers (for the kids). My husband is still on veggie duty, and the other kid helps where needed: fruit duty, extra protein on sport’s days, or a bonus treat from the weekend’s baking extravaganza.

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The main reason my family keeps me around–I’m the only one who can Tetris the fridge so a week’s worth of shopping, pre-cooked dinners, and all of our lunches fit inside.

don’t sweat the small stuff: It’s OK if the laundry doesn’t get done tonight. The memory of cuddling up with your child and reading a favorite book, drawing a picture for grandma, or listening to them play an instrument (no matter how good or bad) is far more important in the grand scheme of things. Choose to live the best life in the moment and let the rest go!

Angela

 

 

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cry baby

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This image by heinz is licensed under Creative Commons CC0 from Pixabay.

On the first few days of school, your child entered the classroom with confidence, a smile, and total exuberance. Days later…the waterworks began.

Why is this happening?

Is someone hurting my child?

Are they safe?

For most children, the first days of school are fun and new. But for others, the reality of going to school every day wears off quickly and the true “first day jitters” kicks in. Don’t worry. Your child isn’t crying because school is a terrible place. They are crying because it’s the place they go when you are not around and that makes your child sad.

Be patient. In a few days, weeks, or months, the classroom will become their happy place.

Regardless of how your child feels about coming to school today, it’s important that you maintain a daily routine:

  • talk about your “big kid.” By doing this, you will help boost your child’s confidence and it will soon become their “job” just as yours is going to work.
  • treat them like a “big kid.” Have them carry their own lunch box and walk on their own two feet. Though it may take a bit longer to get there, this habit reminds your child that they are so big that they get to go to school.
  • keep smiling. Your child is looking to you for advice about how they should feel. If you’re excited, they’ll be excited. If you’re nervous, they will be too.
  • a kiss & a cuddle. Your child was happy until they saw the classroom door and then the “ugly cry” began. No matter how their tears pull at your heart strings… don’t drag out the goodbye. Give a kiss, a cuddle, and hand them over to the teacher. The longer the disconnection time, the more anxious your child will become, and the longer it will take your child to settle down. Relax, your child’s teacher is used to this.
  • loving reminders. As you give your child a goodbye kiss, whisper to them that you (or another loved one) will be back at pick-up time. Hearing this reassures your child that they won’t be forgotten.

Think you’re alone? Think again. Check out this blog post from a mom who’s been through the drop-off from hell herself.

Angela

starting school

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This image by graphicstock is licensed under Creative Commons CC0 from Pixabay and Pexels.

Whether it’s day care, nursery, kindergarten, or middle school… starting school can be harder on parents than on their children. 

For the youngest children just starting school, there are some things you can do at home to ensure that your child’s first few days at school are successful:

  • bed time. Make sure your little one is getting the sleep they need (10-13 hours for 3- and 4-year old children). A tired kid is an anxious kid.
  • ease their fears. Your child will look to you for guidance. If you are worried, they will be too. Ease their fears by putting on a happy face while you talk about how fun school is.
  • send love. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is a beautiful book with a great message. Reading books like will help you show your child you are not deserting them. Likewise, establishing a small personal ritual before going off to school will be something your child can access when you are not around.

If you need some additional advice, Parent’s Magazine has a great article about separation anxiety.

For those who are a bit reluctant about sending your preschooler to school, just remember, you are doing the right thing. Take a deep breath, grab yourself a cup of tea, and read this mom’s reflection on why kids need preschool!

Angela