Faster than you can say spring break is over, the school year will be done. With final exams, state assessments, more advanced reading and math, final projects, concerts, plays, and field trips, the end of the school year possesses its own challenges and rewards. As our children headed back to school this week, here are some thoughts that partially spill over from an earlier segment on spring cleaning your school year. These are tips for making the last two months of school shine, building on what your children receive from you at home.
Where your school routines remain fraught with chaos, build calm. There is nothing worse than starting the day in a frazzled way. Anything that can be done ahead of time to make the morning easier is a sure way to make for a better morning. When homework is done at night and reviewed by you, make it your child’s responsibility to see that it goes in their backpack. Many organizational experts (e.g., Jennifer Fordbery) talk about a launching spot for bags and school supplies. Have your child have their work done, ready, and in this place the night before, to prevent early morning scavenger hunts for homework, bags, etc.
Children can also help make their lunches ahead of time. If they take a lunch, have them empty their lunch bag when they come home if applicable. They can also wipe it out. This would be a good time for them to put tomorrow’s snack in the bag. You can gather their thoughts on what sounds good for a sandwich. (I know mothers and fathers who make and freeze mass quantities of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at once to make things easier.) They may even find it fun to help you make them or at least of part of lunch making is done, for tired moms and dads for later. If they buy a lunch, make sure their lunch money is out for the next day. Or prepay for their lunch with your school’s cafeteria. With lunch preparation done the night before, there is more time for calmness, encouragement, and kindness in the morning, a fine, motivating replacement for grumpiness and the mad dash to get out the door.
Along these same lines, try not to pass your stress onto your children. We are the first and original tone setters in our home. A wise, serene, yes serene, mother of six I spoke to told me that her technique is the “cocktail party” technique. She said that when she set the right tone for her busy home, like the host or hostess who does this right, the “party” turns out well. Where serious stress is an issue, do what you need to do to be well. Seek the family, friend, or professional help that you need. You are your children’s anchor, ship, and rescue boat. If your boat is sinking like the Titanic, SOS (save one’s ship) and fix yourself for the sake of your family!
Improve your family time. If your family time is less than you want it to be, it is never too late to start making more time for each other. Make it a goal to eat dinner together at least a few times a week. One recent article titled “Family Dinners: Do They Really Matter“explores the benefits and points out that experts say that families that eat together are happier, healthier, more cohesive, and even more successful. Such families are more in tune with one another. Children feel a greater sense of personal worth and place within their family.
Another thing you can do is play a game or read a book together. From picture books with little ones to reading popular books like the Harry Potter series or The Hunger Games with older children, reading can be a great way to connect with your family. Lastly, get outside and get active! Exercise is such a fun and healthy way to release end of the school year stress and steam. Like the school year, time will just keep ticking by. Make the most of it!