Not Your Traditional Back-to-School Tips

Aug 23, 2016

The rustling leaves, the quite public pool, and the school band practicing across the street - these sounds of silence wistfully take you back home. But add today’s elements such as coaching your daughter’s soccer team to division title, holding your son’s weekly internet club meetings in your family room, and adding more minutes to your family’s cell phone plan, and you’ve arrived back to 21st century reality.

Never mind the ABC’s - Discuss the CCC’s: Yes, you still have to buy the kids’ new shoes, dispense the weekly lunch money and meet your twin daughter’s science teacher; however, you will be ahead of the game if you clearly communicate the family’s CCC plan. CCC (short for the car, computer and cell phone) which are today’s most widely used but abused privileges for kids. Communicate your rules on these privileges as school gets too far underway and add ground rules are so that the three C’s literally do not take off in their own direction. Oh, and for good measure, take a moment to talk about curfews which definitely fall under the sacred “C’s.” Don’t forget to also set a curfew on your devices, either physically gather the devices to store out of sight or use a parental control solution, like Net Nanny, to literally pause the internet during sleep time. Select an age-appropriate curfew for the year and stick to it – with the obvious exceptions.

Get on the Same Page: Family calendaring is also crucial in keeping communication strong for the entire school year. Sit down each week to find out your entire family’s schedule, then fill in the calendar with all events --- including Mom’s and Dad’s activities.

Combine Findability with Fashion: Post 5 photos of your child in 5 different outfits next to the closet for them to select and aid in their “getting ready” routine each morning. Having photos posted for kids of any age allows your children to get dressed without your constant supervision and eliminates any styling combinations which might send them back to the drawing board (or closet) making everyone one late for school. Having the photos posted creates a visual cue for easy findability. For your older children, consider learning their perceived clothing styles (sporty, bold, vintage) and try to support their self-expression in terms of fashion.

If you happen to have younger ones who tend to dawdle while getting dressed, match the “getting dressed” activity to a short piece of music can shave minutes from the morning routine. Find a piece of music that lasts the amount of time it should take for your child to get dressed. Play it daily so that they’ll dress to happy music and also get subliminally signaled when it’s time to be finished.

Post and Pack: Create a “packing list” and post it in your child’s room (lunch, parent signatures, workout clothes, cell phone, homework). For children who are not able to read yet, let the packing list be in pictures. Having your child take as much responsibility as possible for your scheduling and preparation is invaluable in their later years.

Town Hall Meetings: There is a way to be sure you have signed all permission forms, fundraising documents, field trip authorizations and confirmed carpool arrangements during the school year ahead. The secret? Family Meetings! Bring all of your family members together (yep even the toddlers – so they grow up in the environment) once a week for 20 minutes. I suggest Sunday evenings. Ask each member to bring any necessary news, papers to sign, requests for slumber parties, play dates, or rides to the school dance. This is the perfect time to run through everyone’s schedule and get it on the family calendar – and if the kids are old enough – for them to enter into their own schedules too.

Eliminate Missed Deadlines with a Back Plan: Teaching your child about using a “back plan” will set them up to avoid the dreaded “deadline drama” now and forever into the future. If your son knows he is planning on going to march in the band at Friday night’s football game, help him through the organizing paces – that is do a time line in reverse. Walk (and talk) him through it. Okay, honey, if you have to be at the football field at 7pm in your uniform, that means you need to be dressed and ready to leave the house at 6:30. That means you need to get dressed at 6:10 and we should eat around 5:45pm. Maybe at 5:30 you want to get your saxophone ready and pack a snack for after your performance. So that means you should be home from Dennis’ house at 5pm. How long does it take to get home from Dennis’? It’s a 13-minute walk – so leave there around 4:45. Why don’t you set your alarm for 4:45? Do you need any money and is your uniform clean? That is a back plan. For younger children the same approach holds true, we just don’t need to go into such detail – it’s more like, “If you want to spend the night at Auntie Patty’s tonight, then right after dinner you need to take a bath and pack your pillow, okay?