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.
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!
Let’s face it. In America, holidays are a stressful time of year, no matter what religion you practice. From mid-November through the end of December there are family dinners, travel plans, presents to wrap, extra concerts and activities, school assignments, not to mention meetings and gatherings or parties at work and wrapping up the end of the year activities. (Breathe.) All of that can add up to stress! If you are stressed, your kids will pick up on your stress and become stressed as well.
So what can you do?
Write down exactly what needs to be done, everything you can think of and a guestimate of how much time it will take. Remember things often take longer than anticipated, especially with little helpers or frequent interruptions, give yourself some extra time. Please don’t get overwhelmed, you are going to be able to tackle this list. Note what day/time each of these items needs to be done. Mark the items you can do in advance and start doing them. This will help prevent the last minute rush.
Prioritize. How many of these things need to be done? What can you honestly live without? Do you need place tags at your family dinner table for Thanksgiving? Do you need to make every dish for your big family dinner or can you let someone else prepare a meal for the family to eat? It is OK to share and let someone else enjoy a compliment, even if it’s just for a side dish or hard boiled eggs. Do you have a teen aged neighbor who would like to earn a few dollars by playing with your children while you get things done? Or maybe that teen is willing to do some chores around the house or yard so that you don’t have to do it all. Give yourself permission to drop a few things from your list that would probably be lovely, but not absolutely necessary. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and it also lets other people feel useful and needed.
Take Care of Yourself. In the middle of all of this crazy-ness, plan some Anti-Stress activities. Of course, you can go to an all day spa, but taking care of yourself does not have to be super expensive or time consuming when you’re feeling stressed for time. Take a few moments to sip your favorite tea. Go to the gym or take the dogs out for a quick 10 minute walk if that’s what helps you to calm down. Give your child a big hug! Call or email friend you haven’t talked with in a while.
Remember to breathe and to compliment yourself! You CAN do this!!
While I try to be thankful all year, I find myself feeling especially grateful around this time of year. Yes, Thanksgiving was just here, but for me it’s the fact that, as the weather gets colder, I have a warm, sturdy house, plenty of clothing, and more than enough food to eat. I’m even grateful for the mess in my daughters’ rooms or the things around the house that I have to clean up because it means that we have things. True, too many things, but still plenty of things to be grateful for in my life.
My husband and I try to promote a sense of gratefulness and responsibility in our children by helping others who are less fortunate. Here are three ways you can involve your children in helping others.
Pick a tag off of a Giving Tree (or Angel Tree) and have your child help shop for a present and talk about the child you are shopping for. Help your child understand that this child might not get any toys/clothing if you did not help out. Explain that this child is loved very much by his/her parent, but the parent most likely does not have enough money for fun things or things above and beyond the necessities.
Adopt a family from a homeless shelter or check with your child’s school to see if there is a family you could help. Please note that there will likely be a need for confidentiality. Families in need do not typically want to be recognized or noticed. Even though your family might provide for the same adopted family all year, the shelter or school contact might not share anything other than age, gender and sizes. It is important that if you or your child figures out who this family is, that you don’t call it to their attention.
When we pulled names off a gift tree one year, my daughter figured out that she knew two of the children. We discussed confidentiality, how lucky we were to be able to help and how nice it was that she had insight into what these children might need and want throughout the year. Of course, you, the parent, need to determine if this is something your child understands and can handle. Some children would find it hard to keep that knowledge secret, especially over an extended period of time.
Donate. You can give your child a specific amount of money to donate and help him decide which organization he wants to donate to this year. Or, another thought is that you could match the amount he chooses to donate of his own money (from allowance, extra chores, gift money, etc.). This might not be a large amount of money, but even a handful of coins helps!
Donating clothing or toys is a great excuse to get your child to clear our closets and storage space for any new clothes/toys that she might receive this year. If possible, bring your child with you to the drop off location and have them carry their items in– often the people receiving the items will make a big deal out of the donation if you (or your child) mention that your child cleaned out her closet to be able to help those less fortunate.
These three ideas are great for children of any age. Even if you have an itty bitty child, begin a new tradition and talk to your child every step of the way. Each year he will understand a little more and the act of helping others will become a ‘fact of life’ in his world, maybe even something he eagerly anticipates each year and will share with his children.
I have many things in my life to be thankful for. I have learned, however, that just being thankful, is not enough. Thinking about why I am thankful for these things and verbalizing them outloud or writing them down has brought my gratitude and happiness to a whole new level.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be sending out tips on how to enjoy life and focus on gratitude – so if you haven’t subscribed to receive my Tips, check out the box on the right side of this website and sign up!
I am thankful for my health so that I can enjoy all of my senses.
I can hear the laughter of my children.
I can taste chocolate – hot chocolate in the winter, chocolate chip cookies year round-and I am fortunate to have the capacity to be able to drink/eat whatever I choose to drink or eat.
I can smell of roses, and babies, and bread baking on Friday mornings.
I am able to see snowflakes and beautiful sunsets and occasional sunrises.
I can feel hugs and wet puppy noses on my cheek.
I am thankful to have grown up in America and to have been able to live in a foreign country for a few years when I was younger.
I am free.
I am a female who can do many things.
I have had and still have many opportunities many people don’t have.
I am thankful for you.
You ask fascinating questions and are brave enough to ask some questions that many other parents want to ask, but don’t have the courage to do so.
You have the courage and strength to ask for help or guidance to get your life to a place that is easier and more enjoyable.
You share your life and experiences with me and teach me so much.
Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy finding things to be thankful for this week and always!
In the past few days, I have had a number of parents call me and ask what they should tell their children about the recent attacks in Paris (11/13/15). Depending on their child’s age, my response has been a little different, but there are some things thatcan apply to all ages.
The information in today’s blog is based on research and personal experience working with children and families while I was in Rochester, NY after the 9/11 attacks on the United States. No one experiences events like this in the exact same way regardless of whether you are an adult or child. So read through the suggestions below and do what feels best for you, the parent, and what you think will work best for your child.
Children don’t understand what has happened or why it has happened. Quite frankly, neither do most adults. If you have multiple children, each will respond and react in his or her own way. It is important to answer your child’s questions as honestly as possible at an age appropriate level and as calmly as possible. If you need some time to think about what you want to say, what you believe or how you feel, take the time before you talk to your child. Talk to someone else to bounce ideas of him/her to help you feel comfortable. Let your child know that you are thinking about how to answer some of their questions and want to make sure you have an answer that will make sense.
Children are often most concerned with safety and are very curious – if you have ever had a 2-3 year old, you know there can be a never ending stream of “Why”s. Sometimes we don’t have the answers to their “Why”s, but we can help them feel safe. Reassure your child that you are in charge of keeping them safe. You will not willingly put them in harm’s way. Talk about things you already do around your house to keep your child and family safe (i.e., lock doors to your house, wear seatbelts/buckle into car seats in the car, have an emergency plan to go to the neighbor’s house ifthere is a fire or you smell gas – or even if you get locked out). Again, remember to keep it age appropriate. Children don’t need to know everything. My kids didn’t know that we had a fire plan when they were toddlers, but they did know our last name and our phone number from the time they could talk/sing. We taught them our phone number by singing it to Mary Had A Little Lamb and substituting the phone number for the words.
As for the “Why”s, answer the smallest question you can. By that I mean that you don’t need to go into a two hour lecture about the history of war or about crazy people. Sometimes kids just want to know where Paris is on the map or how far away they are from the event. They also want to know if it could happen here. Again, reassure them that it is rare and that you are doing everything to keep them safe. You can also ask your child what she has heard or what she already knows. This will help you better understand what she is asking and how to answer her questions.
Keep things as normal as possible. When 9/11 happened, even though our world was turned upside down, preschools through high schools continued to run as scheduled to help keep things as normal as possible. There were often extra counselors on hand for both the students and the staff, but other than that, kids continued to be kids and go to classes. Continue to live and do things as you normally would, while being aware that you might continue to have conversations that you normally wouldn’t have with tough questions you wouldn’t normally be asked to answer.
If your child seems extra anxious or concerned – again, don’t worry, but be responsive. Continue to reassure your child that you are there to help keep him safe (as are teachers, police officers, fire fighters, nurses and doctors, too). Sometimes children will regress (if they were potty trained, they might need a little re-training – be kind and gentle), other children might have separation anxiety (again or for the first time). This will pass, so don’t make a big deal about it, but do reassure your child that you will be back. Offer a picture of you (or the family) or write a note for your child to hang onto until you return. For older children, you can ask a question for them to think about or give a challenge for them to tackle and report back to you when you return. If your child’s anxiety continues at a high level or you are worried about your child, it’s always OK to check with a professional to get some tips and advice. However, if your child’s anxiety is not constant and seems to come and go, it is probably natural and your child is dealing with things as needed.
Sometimes kids will act out a scene through play. This is them trying to figure things out. Often you can just watch and let the child play. Only get involved if he/she asks you to and then, you can be the person who helps, maintains order, or provides comfort.
Some children become more clingy than usual. Often this is not because of the actual events that happened, but because they sense that their loved ones are upset or because they’ve seen pictures on TV or on the internet that show adults who are upset, hurt or sad. Be aware of what your children are being exposed to –watch the news or check your phone out of eye/ear shot of your child. Offer your child more hugs and hands to hold as you can. Having a ‘lovey,’ a blanket or a stuffed animal, to providecomfort can also help. Letting your child sleep in flannel sheets or with a flannel blanket has also been said to have a calming effect when children experience trauma or loss.
Don’t worry if your child doesn’t show any interest or concern. This is big stuff and far away from their world of play. It does not mean that he/she will grow up not caring about others! It is much easier, especially if they feel safe, to remain in a child’s world. Children also tend to compartmentalize things, so they might talk about this seriously and be scared one moment and be outside playing ball the next. Be aware that your child may ask about this at a future date and time when you are least expecting it. They might hear or see something that makes them curiousthen.
Be patient and calm answering in the best age-appropriate way you can. I find that now it is even more important than ever to teach our children to be compassionate, kind and caring human beings.