Does your child have the back-to-school jitters? Do you have a little one going off for the first time? Maybe your child can’t wait to get out the door and you are the one having the ‘empty nest’ panic attack?
No matter what the scenario in your home, the end of summer and back-to-school routine can be stressful. Here are a few ideas to help ease the transition for everyone.
As a final consolation, don’t forget that children almost always manage better once you have disappeared around the corner than when you are still within sight. They pull themselves together and can focus on the task at hand rather than concentrate on missing you. The day will be over before you know it!
If you dove right in after last week’s blog and started working on your family’s morning routine, you may have bumped up against Rule #1 with the kids: things almost always get worse before they get better. Most of us don’t like change. So take it as a good sign and don’t give up.
Rule #1 with parents: WHAT you say and HOW you say it is almost more important than anything else you do. With this in mind, here are some suggestions for working out the kinks and winning over even the most challenging child.
Let the routine be the boss, not you. For instance, have you said something like this to your child recently? “What are you doing? Get in there and brush your teeth or we’re going to be late again!” While this may be true, you’ll have better results with something like this: “It’s five minutes to leaving time, what is it you need to do to be ready?” or “Would you please check the chart and see what you have left to do?” For a younger child, you can ask what happens next in the routine, or say “In our house, we brush our teeth next.” These statements teach your child to focus on the ‘needs of the situation’, and to think for themselves.
Important Tip: Tell your children what you’ll be doing, not what they’ll be doing. For example, instead of “I need you to get downstairs for breakfast.” Say “Mommy’s going down to serve breakfast. I’ll see you there.” Doesn’t mean they’ll jump to it, but you’re no longer hovering which might get you engaged in another struggle. Much more inviting, don’t you think? It works with partners, too!
Next, you’ll want to stop the nagging and the reminding. Allow alarm clocks, the routine chart, and timers to do your former job. Give your young child the timer and ask them to let you know when five minutes is up. Saying it with a word can work like a charm, too: “Breakfast” or “Coats”. Sometimes this wee reminder is all that’s needed to get a child refocused. With children, less is definitely more.
Another great tool to reduce nagging is to tell kids what you are willing to do and not willing to do, in a kind but firm manner. For instance, you’re willing to make breakfast but you’re not willing to remind them every five minutes to eat breakfast. You’re willing to help with zippers and buttons after they’ve put their clothes on.
On a final note, it’s helpful to look at how you measure success. A successful morning doesn’t mean that everything got done and done well. It can mean you respected yourself and children by not jumping in and doing it for them. It could mean you left on time without yelling and using threats, even if this means one of them went to school without breakfast! They’ll learn more from a hungry belly than from all the days of force-feeding them on the way out the door.
The goal in the mornings is not perfection but improvement.
The big bonus when you work on routines with your children? You’re teaching them about cooperation, contributing to others, and you’re moving your child from ego-centric to group-centric. All vital life skills!