Going back to school is looking different this year. It will look different for all of us, but as we go back this year at home (for our family) I had to figure out how I was going to make the most of it and make it ‘as normal’ as I possibly could. Here are the tips I created as I worked through preparing for this transition for my two tween boys.
- Create a workspace – there are NO rules for this other than your child NEEDs a designated place to work and learn. Now this area should preferably be well lit and somewhat quiet but I have set my boys up next to each other and with headphones on, they can concentrate and get their work done. We picked up school laptops and already had the headphones. Initially I didn’t think that putting them at the same desk would work, but surprisingly it did. They are in their own world and taking care of their own assignments. Last spring they sat in the kitchen at our island. That was good but they like this set up better. The lesson here? Have a spot designated for learning and make it part of the routine to show up there everyday on time.
- Have a schedule for assignments – The teachers will have assignments for their students, but you may want to make a schedule to check in on their assignments weekly. Of course as parents we check in on their day and their homework, but keeping up with assignments can get difficult — especially with more than one child — so setting time aside for this is key to their success.
- Weekly schedule for work / school – My kids thrive with a schedule and a routine. Actually most children do. I am not a rigid task-master, but I do make sure that there are routines that we follow and a schedule that we can stick to to make the day go by smoother as well as give the kids a sense of responsibility. I also make sure that we create our schedule together as having their input creates more buy-in, but also allows for us to make sure that it is well balanced. We strive to make every day include the following areas:
- Check with schools / libraries – for computer or hubs for WIFI – Many schools will provide laptops or computers and if you do not have one request one. Many schools have also set up WIFI hubs in order to get the internet service that is necessary for this transition.
- Talk to your kids – I have been talking to the boys all summer about what this “may” look like. I find that talking with the kids and asking them to envision the possibilities of what it could feel like, really helps with making this change more manageable. I share more about how I am talking with my kids and focusing on their mental health during this pandemic in this post.
- Structure – this is so necessary to a child’s development and their ability to thrive. The key ingredients to building structure in the home are: consistency, predictably and follow-through. Children NEED consistency. This could be the hardest part of parenting. Consistency is all about doing the same THING every time based on the SAME expectation and it does NOT mean that you have to give consistent attention to EVERY behavior. Be mindful of what behaviors get attention as where attention goes, energy flows. Predictability is also an important part of providing structure. Predictably means that your child will know what will happen and HOW you respond. This takes practice but with routines and schedules, our children begin to know what to expect for the day. Keep in mind when routines and rules change (as they have been frequently because of the current situation) we need to be sure to communicate that clearly one-on-one with our children. Follow-through is so critical to creating and maintaining structure. To be consistent and predictable we need to follow through. They go hand in hand and it is important for ALL behaviors — even the ones we don’t like. Structure helps both us parents and our kids. Our kids feel safer and more secure because they know what to expect and we feel more confident because we now know how to respond and that we will respond the same way each time. Routines and rules help structure the home and make life more predictable.
- Have bedtimes – Keeping bedtime is super important. I will admit, the last several months have been crazy. Bedtimes have been scattered and late nights came one too many. Now that the kids need to be up and follow an earlier routine, we have set bedtimes that they need to stick to Sunday through Thursday. It helps for so many reasons and regular schedules and bedtime rituals help us get the sleep we need in order to give us the ability to function at peak levels. We have always based it on age. Check this Sleep.org article for more info on that.
- Create opportunities – create learning opportunities throughout the day. When making lunch we go over math measurements when cutting bread or when getting a drink we talk about volume. There are so many learning opportunities that can go on in the mundane moments of the day. Try it!
- Address anxiety and concerns – I share this a lot in my post I mentioned earlier, but it is so important to talk about anxiety, sadness and uncertainty. Many of us want to push this all under the rug but I find that sharing this information with my kids makes their feelings more real and validates their experience. The goal isn’t to eliminate anxiety but to help our children manage it. Listening is the best tool and keeping the lines of communication open is critical. Obviously if there are more critical issues or behaviors a child shows, getting help is always best, but with social changes and feelings of uncertainty, talk therapy helps so much.
- Look for other supports – In a time where technology reigns, finding supplemental and supportive is an amazing opportunity. There are so many educational sites that can benefit us and our kids simultaneously. From learning a language to math tutoring, the internet is full of helpful and educational nuggets that can give us all the support we need at a time like this.
These are difficult times. We are facing an unprecedented pandemic full of challenges, and no one knows all of the right answers. Focus on what we can manage and for me that is mental and emotional health which is so critical at a time like this. Remember, we cannot control the crisis, but we can control how we respond to the crisis. Let’s get through this ONE day at a TIME.