As we get ready to head back to school, I figure that this is a good opportunity to provide parents such as myself with a bit of a pep talk to begin the year. Make no mistake about it, the start of a new school year can be just as daunting for parents as it is for the child. Already, we have bags of schools supplies that need to be sorted, uniforms that need to be organized, hair that needs to be done (remember we’ve got 4 girls)…the list goes on. This only represents the cosmetic part of preparing for the school year. We haven’t even begun to talk with the girls yet about their goals for the year or how they’re feeling.
For parents in the throes of raising children (particularly young kids), the back to school season can be fraught with land mines of anxiety and stress (for us and the kids). How can we negotiate this phase, setting ourselves up for a successful year while at the same time navigating the inevitable tension that comes with another school year? Let’s remember this important adage and make it our mantra for the school year: A goal without a plan is just a wish. We’ve got to plan for success this school year.
So, what’s your plan for the upcoming school year? Here are 3 ideas to get you started:
Decide what you want to accomplish this year. Then write it down.
So simple, but so many families skip this phase when it comes to education. We assume someone else (the school, the state, the teacher perhaps?) will have a vision for our child’s education. But isn’t this really our job as parents (and theirs as kids as they get older)? There’s a great quote, if you don’t prioritize your life, somebody else will.
Simply sit down with your child and ask yourselves the question: what do you want to accomplish this year? Then, write that down. Paint for yourselves a real picture of the destination. If you want to get sophisticated for older kids, create a goal to go along with it (a clear measurement of how you’ll know if you’ve reached your destination). You’d be surprised at how this easy step is the springboard to clarity for future decision-making. Here’s an example below of what we use to help organize our conversations with our older girls.
Create routines to get you there.
Routines are simply habits that we choose. They’re also powerful tools for getting us to our visions. If you set a goal with your children to become better readers this year, then you’ve got to build habits around this- such as a daily reading time at home. Look to your goal and let that determine your routines.
For us, our focus is on creating margin (breathing room so we don’t feel like we’re constantly running on fumes) and building a legacy (helping our girls to figure out their God given purpose and leveraging their education to pursue it). To help us get there, we have a few consistent routines in place to reinforce building margin. These include routines like hot breakfast in the mornings, family dinners, family movie nights, journal times, calendar meetings, free Saturdays, etc. All these help us to plan in advance or make time for each other during busy weeks. For the building legacy, we set 1 goal a year with each girl of one way they want to grow, and then we help them to work on that goal all year long (for example- Riles is writing, illustrating, and publishing her own book. Olivia started a youtube channel- not public yet- where she is creating a bank of videos of her baking).
Enlist others to help
Remember that line, it takes a village? Well, any parent knows that it does. We’re fortunate enough to have grandma and other family members who live nearby who can pitch in and babysit or help with pick-ups after-school. But even if it’s not blood relatives, you’ll need a hand from somewhere. The first place to begin though is by sharing your vision with those who are willing to help. This might include sitting down with your child’s teacher at the beginning of the year and sharing what you hope to accomplish. It could mean doing the same with a coach or mentor. The point is, build your team by getting everyone on the same page about what you’re trying to accomplish.
At the end of the year, what I know each of us wants as parents is for our children to be successful. That’s likely where most of our stress and tension comes from as we brace ourselves for the start of another school year. The best way then to set them up for success is by preparing.