Monday, August 18, 2014

Preventing Back-to-School Blues

Did you hear about the mother who went in to wake up her son on the first day of school?
'Wake up, son. It's time to go to school'
'But why, Mom? I don't want to go.'
'Give me two reasons why you don't want to go.'
'Well, the kids hate me for one, and the teachers hate me, too!'
'Oh, that's no reason not to go to school. Come on now and get ready.'
'Give me two reasons why I should go to school.'
'Well, for one, you're 52 years old. And for another, you're the Principal!'

Back-to-school time can be scary for everyone.  We're in count down mode over here.  When I ask my kids how they feel about starting back I get varying answers: dread over alarm clocks, excitement to see friends, anxious about new teachers and homework.  Sound familiar? Parents can help their child prepare well emotionally for this mixed bag of feelings.  Here are some thoughts to consider...

Acknowledge Emotions - Change in routine can be hard on kids (and adults!).  If your child had difficulties last year, the start of a new year can be particularly stressful. Whatever your child's emotions, they need to be validated.  Kids, even teens, aren't always able to articulate their feelings of stress.  You may notice a change in appetite, mood or sleep patterns.  Keep your eyes open for signs of tension. Listening to your child, asking questions, empathizing with their feelings and reassuring them their future is not defined by their past can help ease your child's anxiety.

Reduce Unknowns - Have you ever played the 'what if' game?  Many children play this at back-to-school time. Here's how it goes - you ask yourself terrifying questions until your stomach is in knots. Fun, right?  Questions like, "What if I can't find my classroom?"  "What if I can't get my locker open?"  "What if I don't like my teacher?"  While you can't wipe out all the what if's, you can reduce them by going to Meet the Teacher Night, walking your child through their schedule, letting him practice his locker combination over and over and over again. One thing I did when my oldest started middle school was help her arrange a lunch plan with friends.  She talked to two or three friends ahead of time. They arranged a specific spot to meet so they could sit together.  This was a huge stress reliever for the first day.

Create Calm - Kids feed off of our emotions.  If we're stressed it stresses them.  If we're calm it helps them feel calm.  I hate to break it to you but we need to lead by example.  We can teach them how to productively handle stress by modeling it in our own lives.  Think of a few ways you can create an atmosphere of refuge and peace in your home especially for these first few days.  Pray with your child, encourage them and demonstrate your confidence that they can handle the new challenges that lie ahead.

With your help, your child can greet the new year with confidence even if he's the principal.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Getting My Back-to-school Act Together

Hey, girlfriends. You know what month it is?  That's right, it's August and we all know what that means.  Am I the only one that gets a small kick in my gut when I hear the word "August"? 

See if you can follow this simple math problem:
August = back-to-school. 
Back-to-school = 5 alarm clocks + 3 daily lunches + infinite homework. 
Therefore, August = 1 Stressed Mom

To raise my blood pressure even more, mix in the fact that I am going back to work full time in September.  I'm filling my final summer days reading organizational blogs and making meal calendars, baby!

Here are some of my favorite tips I thought I'd pass along to my stressed out sistas....
Tip #1 Family Meeting
Get your family together every Sunday night to go over the coming week's calendar.  Remind your kids of expectations regarding chores, homework, and relationships with each other. End your time together sharing best and worst from the week, gratitude and blessing each other. 

Tip #2 Emeals
Dave Ramsey and Focus on the Family endorse an app called "emeals".  I've downloaded it to my phone and can also access it on my computer.  It provides weekly meal plans, easy prep and a master grocery list.  Every mom's best friend!

Tip #3 Delegate
Before the first school day, have your kids make their own morning and evening to do list.  My son writes his morning checklist in dry erase markers on his bathroom mirror.  We have afternoon checklists downstairs in the kitchen.  It saves me a lot of nagging!

Tip #4 Calendar QT
Fall schedules fill up quickly and all that great family time from summer is soon a distant memory.  Go ahead and schedule parent/child dates on the calendar to make sure you stay connected.  Back-to-school brings lots of stress on kids - new teachers, increased homework load as they get older, changing friendships, etc.  When we carve out quality time it demonstrates to our children that we genuinely care.

Tip #5 The Night Before
Every Sunday the kids select their five outfits for school the coming week.  Then, each night they make their lunches (if your kids aren't making their own lunches yet get them moving in that direction).  Breakfast is already planned and backpacks are locked and loaded. Pretend you're a fireman and you've got to be ready to go when that alarm goes off!

Let's face it, stuff is going to come up that we cannot control but by golly, control what you can! Back-to-school does not have to mean we all lose our minds.  With a few simple tips and good communication we can ease back into a routine with peace and keep our blood pressure regulated without medication.  Come on, girls, you've got this.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Parenting Backwards

Raise your hand if you want to raise broken and dysfunctional kids.  No one?   I'm guessing no mom has held their newborn child and dreamed of rearing up their little one with low self-esteem and a plethora of insecurities. Then, why do so many kids struggle as adults with these very issues?  I have a theory.

Many parents aren't parenting backwards.  That's right - Parenting Backwards.  What I mean is parenting with a picture in mind of what you want your child to be like when they're grown. When our kids are young, it's easy to stay focused on the here and now.  Each day has enough packed into it that it's hard to see past the next hour much less years down the road.  Let's face it, from the moment their little red bottoms are slapped at birth, life gets CRAZY!  Families are rushed and pressured to the breaking point.  This often results in a half-hazard approach to parenting. 

Life has a way of carrying us along day to day with no real thought as to where we are going.  I'd like to take a moment to challenge parents to 'parent with the end in mind'. When your kids graduate from high school, what characteristics do you want to see?  Integrity?  Responsibility?  Trust?  Confidence?  These are not natural human qualities.  If you want them to possess these traits as adults, you've got to teach to the heart when they are children. 

Proverbs 4:23 is an all-time favorite, "Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."  How are you guarding and shaping your child's heart?  We spend fortunes on braces to shape their smile; education to shape their intellect; and private lessons or team sports to shape their talents.  But what about character? 

God instructs parents to be the ones to teach character and shape their child's heart.  "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)  These commands God gives are the heart shapers!  Sow this into your little ones hearts now and reap the benefits when they are adults.

Some day your present will be your past.  When you're in the future, what do you want your past to look like?  (Read that again slowly if you need to.) Let it be more than orthodontist appointments, good report cards, and soccer trophies.  Let love, truth, mercy and grace also be part of those memories and a part of your future.  Parent backwards to get the past you want in the future and enjoy the beautiful benefits of "heart healthy" children!