Your son/daughter has been in elementary or middle school for a while and things should be flowing along smoothly at this point. Right?
Unfortunately, for many kids, this is not the case! Papers from school might, or might not, make it into your child’s backpack. Homework assignments that are done, seem to vanish into thin air between your kitchen table and the classroom.
Just like learning to read, learning to be organized to succeed in school, needs to be taught in small steps and reinforced regularly. When a child first learns to read, he learns what the letters look like and sound like. Then he learns that when you put letters together, you create new sounds and eventually words. Many letters together in groups (words) can make a sentence, a paragraph, or even a story!
Once we’ve taught our children to read, we don’t send them off to fend for themselves. We don’t even let them choose whether or not they want to read. We encourage them to read, and even require it of them in school. Our world constantly provides opportunities to read (street signs, words on food packaging, t-shirts, etc.). And all of this happens at a stage where the brain is open to and able to learn this new skill. Notice I said ‘stage’, not ‘age’ because this does happen at different times for different children, and that is OK!
The executive functioning of the brain, the part that acts as a personal assistant, or office manager, doesn’t fully develop in humans until they are almost 25 years old. Our executive functions enable us to make a list, remember to look at it, and then cross things off as we complete things on that list.
So, GIVE YOUR CHILD A LITTLE BREAK, and GIVE YOURSELF A LITTLE BREAK!
Your child’s brain is still developing!
Your child is really not mentally capable of keeping track of all of the things that he/she needs to keep track of during the school day. Can some kids do it? Sure. But many can’t remember all of the details without a little bit of help.
So what do you do?
Put strategies in place.
Just like reading, your child will get to practice certain skills on a daily basis (i.e., bringing assignments home and bringing completed homework back to school). Many teachers will provide your child with tried and true strategies. One example is having one duel-pocket folder for all papers. One side is marked “HOME” and the other side is marked “SCHOOL.” All papers coming home are put on one side and then all papers going back to school go on the other. While this might seem obvious to you and me, it really isn’t that obvious to your child.
Growing up I always found it a little ironic that many people, moms included, need to “labor” on Labor Day.
To our military, safety/emergency personnel, and retail sales workers out there – thank you. We appreciate what you do. I hope you get a Labor Day off at some point this week, even if it’s not on the official holiday.
If you are one of the fortunate ones that does not need to go out to work today, my wish for you is that you get to spend quality time with your family. Find fun, EASY things to do so that you are not laboring as much as, or more than, your typical day.
Most kids are not typically cognizant enough to say thank you or to appreciate all you do.
But I am. I will say THANK YOU for your kids.
Thank you for caring enough to set limits and boundaries, even when it’s hard.
Thank you for providing chores and other responsibilities to help your children learn to be successful adults.
Thank you for following through on things you’ve said you will do, even when you are not sure how you will find the strength to do so.
Thank you for all of the love, hugs, cuddles, and giggles. These fill your child’s heart with your love to hold on to when you are not physically present to do so.
I know how much work it can be raising kids, especially when they are little.
On this Labor Day, take a few moments to think about ways that you can fill your heart. Find ways to take care of yourself so that you don’t get angry, exhausted, overwhelmed or burnt out. Your children might not outright appreciate or thank you. In the long run, once they are out on their own, especially if they have children, they will be able to look back and recognize at least some of what you do!
If you need help finding ways to Take Care of the Caretaker (YOU), or setting limits and following through, send me an email and we’ll set up a time to talk (NO charge).
6 Back to School Tips to Ease Your Child’s Anxiety
It’s that time of year! Most kids, parents and teachers are excited to jump into the new school year. Yet for some kids, it can be terrifying, or at the least, be overwhelming. It is NORMAL for kids (parents and teachers, too) to feel a mix of excitement and nervousness. There are a lot of unknowns when starting a new school year. What will my teacher be like? What will I learn? Who will I sit next to during class? During lunch? What if it’s too hard? Too easy?
Leaving parents, the ‘not knowing’, and even the transition from a less structured time to a more structured time can all be possible causes of anxiety. But have no fear (pun intended), YOU can help your child get through this! Here are 5 tips to help you with a smooth transition to school this year.
Start getting into a routine a week or two before school starts. Practice morning and bedtime routines so your child gets develops a habit and can get the required amount of sleep. (see blog on Morning Routines or Bedtime Routines). Most elementary school aged children need 9-11 hours and older children need 8-10 hours of sleep. Practice walking to school or walking to the bus stop. Time your morning routines and the walk to see how much time it takes. Add 15 minutes to that time, once school actually starts, in case there’s a delay or someone gets side tracked. You can always have a special activity (i.e., cuddle and read a book together) if you get done early.
2. Stay Calm.
One of the most important things is for you, the grown-up, to remain calm. If you get all worked up or appear anxious, your child will pick up on your feelings. That’s not to say that you can’t feel anxious or sad – my kids are going into middle and high school and I still get tear-y eyed after they walk into the school. Notice I said “after” they walk into the school. Do your best to keep a calm appearance when you are with your child.
3. Stay Positive.
For kids who are anxious or scared about school, focus on the positives of school. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about things that worry your child, but answer them in a calm and positive manner. Mention things your child feels confident about (she is good at math, he has met the teacher and she has a nice smile). Smile when you talk about school and offer things that you remember enjoying when you were in school, even if it was playing on the monkey bars at recess.
4. Ask Questions.
Think of a list of questions and pick one or two each day. Ask your child as he heads off to school and then ask for the answers when he returns home. You could even make these ‘special missions.’ An example question/mission could be: “When you get home, I’d like to know who you sat next to in lunch today and one food that person had that you might want in your lunch in the future.”
Remember to ask the question again when your child gets home.
5. Something Special.
Do or have something special for your child. You could designate a special snack that she only gets when she’s at school (not an ‘at home’ snack). Maybe there is a special shirt you bought him to wear on the first day. Pick out special notebooks for school together. Decorate the notebooks if they are plain. Don’t forget to take and/or use pictures!
Before my daughters could read, I would put a new picture in a zip top bag taped to the inside of their lunch boxes every Monday. I still put a picture in on the first day of school, but now I write little love notes every once in a while, throughout the year. “Good luck on your test!” “Smile!” “You are Awesome!”
6. Do Something for YOU.
If it’s been a challenging few weeks, or if it is difficult for you to see your child go off to school, make sure YOU have plans after you drop him/her off that first day. Go out for coffee with another parent, walk the dog, schedule a playdate with your friend. Do something to take your mind off your child. Teachers are aware that the first day can be tough for some children. They have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves to help their students feel welcome, comfortable, and included. Most kids who cling, or leave their parents tear-y eyed at the door (meaning the kids, not the parents), are fine moments after the door shuts and their little minds are engaged in doing something fun.
I love this time of year! There are fresh school supplies in the stores, the weather starts to change, and there are so many hope-filled possibilities. Yes, it’s “Back To School” time.
My disclaimer before you read the rest of this post, so that you know my bias: I am not one of those moms who does a happy dance when my kiddos go off to school each fall. This time of year is bitter sweet for me. I love getting back into a routine and the structure of school and activities. But I miss my kids. I enjoy spending time with them during the summer and eating lunch with them..
Below are a few things that have made the transition to school easier for our family. Sign up for my weekly TIPS if you would like more fun, easy ideas regarding the start of school (and many other things throughout the year)
1. Practice Run
When my girls were little, we would do a full practice run the week before school started. We would wake up “on time” to get washed up, eat breakfast, put clothes on, make lunches, and pack things into back packs with enough time to get to school. If your kids will be walking or riding their bikes, time that. It took our family 25-35 minutes to walk to school in first grade because my girls had small legs. We also we had to stop and look at everything along the way. By fifth grade, we could make it to school in 10-15 minutes (less if we were late and had to jog!). If your child is taking a bus, practice being ready 5 minutes before you need to leave for the bus stop. If you are driving, plan on carpool-lane lines, especially in rainy or snowy weather, and give yourself a little cushion of time there as well.
2. Stock up on School Supplies in Advance
Many schools will provide students with a supply list for their upcoming year. If at all possible, buy these supplies in advance so that you are not fighting crowds or toting tired kids along after they have been at school all day.
Since we’ve been doing this for a while, I save leftover supplies at the end of the year. My girls shop in ‘our store’ before we go off and purchase new items. It’s not nearly as fun as having brand new colored pencils, but do I really need to spend $3 on 12 new pencils when only the light blue and green ones were used a little bit last year? I think not. It’s the same thing with notebooks and binders. Especially the notebooks we bought towards the end of the year. These often only have 8-10 used pages. I rip the used pages out and we have a new (well, almost new) notebook for the fall.
3. Important Names and Numbers
Start working on important names and numbers now. In addition to a digital list, if that’s the way you work, keep a hard copy of this list in a central location (near your phone or on the cover of your phone book) so that it is handy for everyone when needed. Some of the numbers I keep: School Office, Attendance, Teacher(s), Emergency Contacts, Doctor/Dentist Office, Close Friends and Neighbors. This list comes in handy when my kids need to be out of school (attendance) and when filling in all of the forms at the beginning of the year (every year) that ask for some of that information.
4. Dates on Calendar
Put dates on your calendar as soon as they come in. It doesn’t matter if you use a digital calendar or an old fashioned paper and pencil calendar. Put the dates on now. This might seem like a no-brainer or a super easy task. If you are just starting and don’t have too many activities, it should be relatively easy. However, if you have multiple children involved in multiple activities, it can get busy and might seem overwhelming quickly.
I have one client who uses a different color for each person in her family. Another client uses a different color for different activities (school activities are green, sports are blue, scouts are brown, etc.). There is no correct way to do this. You will need to come up with a system that works for you – even if you write everything in pencil – the goal is to get in the habit of writing it all on your calendar so that you can keep your head above water and stay on top of things!
5. Have Fun
This is super important to me. I want to send my girls off to their first day in a good mood.
I have helium balloons and take pictures on that first day of school. While I do request at least one ‘nice smile’ picture, there are often a bunch of crazy faces along the way. I also provide donuts for our bus stop on the first day of school (the middle school bus stops right in front of our house). As a bonus, after the kids leave, the parents usually hang around and visit for a bit and tease me as I try not to cry. Yes, even with my girls growing up, I still get a bit tear-y eyed on that first day.
After school I offer my girls a special snack (ice cream or milk and cookies) that we don’t have on a typical afternoon. It’s my way of getting them to sit still long enough to talk about their day for a few moments.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog. I’ll have more ideas to help if your child is anxious about school starting.
One of the best ways to deal with the “I Wants” is to give your child some money.
“Give my child money?!” you ask? Yes. You can teach your child how to be financially responsible if you teach them about value and the fact that money doesn’t grow on trees.
A few summers ago, I gave my daughters each $5 and took them garage sale shopping. My thought was that they could spend “their” money on anything (within reason) that they wanted and garage sales often offer cheaper prices than shopping retail.
It was a great lesson in finances. The money was practically burning a hole in one daughter’s pocket. She wanted everything she saw at the first garage sale. My other daughter was a little more selective, but still picked some items that I would call ‘interesting,’ to say the least.
While we were shopping, I casually asked each daughter if the item she selected was something she needed, or felt that she really wanted, or if it was just something she thought would be neat. If she spent her money on that item, would she regret not being able to buy something else at the next garage sale?
We talked about the possibility of coming back, after going to a second garage sale, if she decided that she did really want the item after all. We also discussed the risk of the item possibly being gone if we came back.
Both girls bought a few things at the first sale, but also put a few things back to save their money for the next sale. When we got to the next sale, they saw a large wooden structure that they both loved and wanted to use as a Barbie house. They were able to pool their leftover money and pay for it together ($2).
After that big purchase, both financially and in physical size, my girls decided to keep the rest of their money ($2 and $0.45) for another day.
Giving your child some money can help teach them to be financially responsible. Whether you just hand money out -as I did to teach this lesson, have your child earn it, or set up an allowance plan, you, as the parent, get to decide how much and how often.
By learning about value and having the freedom or control to purchase his/her own items, you can reduce your child’s “I want this!” and “I want that” by saying, “Yes! You can have that. You can use your money to buy it!”
Do you feel like you are doing all of the work around your house?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little help so that you could play, too?
Young children love to help! If your children are young, you have a huge advantage here, please don’t let this slip away. If your children are older, it’s a bit more work, but in the end, you will have well rounded, knowledgeable children who can take care of themselves when they are off on their own- not to mention a little more time for yourself before they leave!
It’s important to find age-appropriate chores and to realize that you will need to teach, and re-teach these chores on occasion. It’s also important that you pick chores you can live with being done at a ‘child-level.’ If you need to have the mirrors wiped without streaks, or it will bother you all day long, this is not a chore you should give to your child. If you don’t care that there is a smudge here or there, give it away and put your feet up for a few moments!
Obviously young children will need more help and supervision, and older children will need to be taught and supervised in the beginning, too. Just remember, you are training your child for the long run. If you can stick with it, the benefits are worth it.
Here are some examples of a few age appropriate chores and a few tips:
Young Children (3-5 years old)
Pick Up Toys: You can make a game of this or have your child race a timer.
Set/Clear the Table: If you put the items on the table and have taught your child (or continue to teach) where to put the plates, napkins, forks and spoons, your child can start this task as early as 3-4 years old. Encouraging your child to clear his/her plate and silverware can start as early as they are able to carry something from the table to the counter.
Vacuum/Mop: Young children love to help. In the beginning, a toy vacuum is a great way to have children help and enjoy doing the chore.
Laundry: Children love to make pairs and find matches. Have them help by sorting socks.
5-8 Year Olds
All of the above chores with a little more responsibility.
Pick up Toys: We have a saying at our house: “Whatever you take out, you must put back.”
Set/Clear Table: Your child can set the table with items you have put on the table and can also start helping to bring food to/from the table. Clearing can include not only his/her place setting, but also parent place settings, too.
Vacuum/Mop/Dust Mop: Children can start using ‘real’ vacuums and mops at this age.
8+ Years Old
All of the above chores and…
Pick Up Toys and Crafts: At this age we added the saying: “If you can’t clean it up withing 15 minutes, it might be too much.” My daughters prefer to spend more time playing than cleaning, so this saying seemed to resonate with them.
Load/Unload Dishwasher: When my children first started unloading the dishwasher, they were too short to put some of the dishes and cups away in the high cupboards. They started by putting the things on the counter and I would put them away. As they grew, they were able to stand on a stool to help them be tall enough to finish the job. And, yes, for those of you who know me, I have to use the stool sometimes, too!
So, there you have it. A list of a few age-appropriate chores you can try at your house. My suggestion would be to pick one or two chores and experiment with those chores, not to try all of them this week. Once you have established a routine, or a system that works with one or two chores, you can add another one. Slowly, over a few months, you can continue to increase the responsibility. Just don’t forget to figure in the “Fun Factor” to keep things from seeming too much like work.
Check out my upcoming Webinar:
How to Get Your Child To Cooperate and Complete Chores
Kids need sleep. Let’s face it, parents need kids to sleep!
I often have parents complain to me that their children won’t go to bed nicely. They call for an extra kiss or for a drink of water. Some need to go to the bathroom again, others want to sleep in their parents’ bed instead of their own. While there is no magic solution for every child, here are four things that have worked well for many families.
Are you struggling with getting your child(ren) ready and out of the house in the morning? Here are a few tips to help make it a little easier…
Make a simple routine to follow and provide simple directions. Keeping the same routine every morning will help create a habit. Providing a simple direction sheet, will make it easier for you to point to the directions instead of being the ‘bad guy’ or the ‘nag’ every morning.
For example, in our house, when my daughters were younger, we had the “High Five” morning routine. They needed to:
I hope you survived the Holidays and had lots of fun with your family. If it was a bit of a struggle for you, congratulations on getting through it, even with some bumps and bruises. Think of this new year as a great time to make a new start.
I’ve decided that my theme this year will be “Take Care of the Care Taker.” It’s been my mantra for years, but I have to admit, sometimes it is much easier said than done. It is my goal to help you learn how to get better at, or even just ‘how to’ Take Care of the Care Taker, meaning YOU! There will be at least one Tip each month geared towards this and today, will be the first.
Does your child have a bad case of the “Gimmes” or the “I-wants”? “Give me this” and “I want that!”
Parents often struggle with providing for their children while keeping their child from feeling entitled or falling into the “spoiled” category. Many parents feel like they are earning enough, so why shouldn’t they provide everything for their children? It’s also easy to want for your children what you didn’t have. Watch out and think twice before you provide everything! Material things end up meaning less if they are easily available.
If you want to break the “Gimmes” or “I-wants”, or if you are lucky enough to be reading this when your child is very young and want to prevent these sneaky creatures from entering your home, you need to have a plan. As a parent, you are in charge. You do not need to be mean, but you do need to think about your priorities and teach them to your children. Will you give them everything they need at any time, or only when you feel they need something? What about things they ‘want’ (the $200 pair of jeans, when you can get very nice jeans for $20-30). Will you provide an allowance and ask your child to provide for herself (clothing, activities, outings)? Will you ask your child to split the cost of the extras (movies, shopping for items that are not needed-just desired, such as his 8th hockey stick)?
If allowances or a demand for new things aren’t the problem but you feel like your child has too many things (notice a big mess around the house or things that get ignored for months?), think about having your child clean out his toy box right before the holidays or his birthday. See if you can find a homeless shelter, women’s shelter or another ‘real-life’ place to take your child to donate the old toys. Help your child understand that these children might not get any toys/clothing if you did not help out. Explain that these children can still be happy and healthy and loved, but their families most likely do not have enough money for fun things or things above and beyond the necessities.
And what about shopping trips to the grocery store or for another person’s birthday? As a parent who needs to take a child on a shopping trip, you face extra challenges than someone shopping alone. I’ll be the first to admit to buying a toy from the $1 section on more than one occasion to entertain my child throughout the shopping trip… See my blog on The Joys (not!) of Shopping with Children for more. If you buy your child something on every shopping trip, he will learn to expect it (and the “Gimmes” will be there in full force). If you give in to a tantrum because he wants something you are not willing to buy, he will learn that throwing a tantrum gets him whatever item he wants.
Some parents have children keep a list of things they want. Every time a child says “I want” something, they are politely told to write it down on the list. Parents review the list with the child close to birthdays, holidays and special occasions to see if the things on the list are still relevant. If they are, they can be shared with relatives or others interested in buying a gift for your child or the child can be encouraged to save and buy the item with her own money.
It’s not too late to get rid of the case of the “Gimmes” or “I-wants.” If there is something your child really wants, have her earn part of the money to pay for the item. Helping a neighbor or doing extra chores around the house can help a young child earn some spending (or saving) money. This is a good practice even when it’s not around the holiday time!