This morning my oldest started middle school. MIDDLE SCHOOL y’all. Honestly where does the time go? Yesterday, I got 11 emails from his teachers and as I sifted through them, one of them said “middle school is a whole different ball game for parents and for kids”. Nothing could be further from the truth but as I started thinking, I have something that most parents don’t- a degree in education. That’s what’s getting me through the beginning of the year! Here are a few tips I can give you to help your sanity and help your child be as successful as possible.
You and your child are no different.
Both of you have basic needs that need to be met in order to be successful.
That being said, here we go…
1. Breakfast, even if your child says “I’m NOT HUNGRY!” is super important. If your child isn’t hungry as soon as they wake up, that’s understandable. Wake them up a little earlier. They have to eat and something with protein is going to tide them over longer than sugar and carbs alone. At home, they can get a snack whenever they do get hungry. At school, they can’t and if they’re hungry, they get irritable, defiant and in trouble. They can’t focus on what’s being taught because all they can think about is the fact that they’re hungry.
Did you know, according to http://www.healthychildren.org, a child 1-3 years old needs about 32 oz. of water a day to be hydrated. A child 4-8 years old needs around 40 oz and a child older than 8 needs around 64 oz. of water every day. This amount should be increased if they play outside when it’s hot, play sports or they are sick. Think about that. A child that goes to school does not have the ability to drink out of the water fountains because of covid procedures and they get maybe 8 oz. of milk at lunch. They MUST have a water bottle at school to be hydrated and again, focused on what’s being taught versus how thirsty they are.
One of the things I see most in couples I work with and what I saw in the classroom is that children do not have bedtimes. I cannot stress this enough. Children NEED BEDTIMES! Not only for parents to have time to connect, unwind and regain their sanity at the end of the day but also because just like food and water, kids are exhausted if they don’t have enough sleep and they’re either taking a nap in the classroom or they’re focused on how tired they are and getting antsy, moving around or causing trouble just to stay awake. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that a preschool child get 10-13 hours per night and a school age child get 9-11 hours per night just to function. Your individual child may need more depending on their personality. “Well that’s not possible with our lifestyle.” I hear that all the time. This may sound harsh but…change your lifestyle. Children don’t NEED to be in every activity known to man. They don’t NEED to watch TV when they come home for 5 hours before going to bed. They DO NEED enough rest and while we are at it, so do you. Studies have shown that adults are exceptionally more productive after getting enough rest or taking a nap than they are if they keep grinding just to check the boxes on the to-do list.
Your time may be limited with them when you all get home in the evening but dare I say that time might be more precious and therefore spent more mindfully?
4. Plan Ahead.
Lay out clothes the night before or even on Sunday for the whole week. Make lists, chore charts and morning routine charts. We used to write Mason’s to do list for the morning on the bathroom mirror in dry erase marker. I have a friend who sets alarms on her phone and the kids just know by week 2 what the alarms are for. Do everything you can in a systematic routine so that it becomes an autopilot thing and you don’t have to waste precious mental energy thinking about what to do next, what you forgot or yelling because your second child can’t find their other sock.
It’s a full sentence and doesn’t require explanation. You are not a bad parent if you don’t make the class parties, don’t volunteer for the class trip, and don’t let your child get involved with every opportunity that comes their way. Be strategic. We don’t allow Mason to play more than one sport per season because it’s too much, for him and for us. School comes first. If his homework isn’t done, he doesn’t attend practice. He knows what his responsibilities are and what his privileges are. Responsibilities come before extracurricular activities/privileges.
When you feel like your poop is everywhere but in a group and you’re starting to get frazzled, it’s time to look at your boundaries. Most likely there aren’t any or they need to be reset. Boundaries aren’t to control everyone else. They’re for you, to say what you will and won’t stand for. They’re imperative in your marriage, with your children, your job and your life in general. Boundaries are THE THING that changed my entire marriage and life to lessen my stress, get rid of my anxiety and help me feel like my life is together.
7. Pizza, Movies and GRACE.
The curriculum being taught now is so much more advanced than it was when I started teaching in 2007. The day is being packed more and more with things kids need to know and they’re getting less and less time to play, create and process that information. Knowing that, after a whole summer off to have fun and not think about school, this first week back (especially if it’s your child’s first week of school EVER) is a doozy to say the least! This weekend, do not plan a single thing. Pizza on Friday night and all. the. naps. this weekend. Your children are going to be exhausted mentally when they come home each day. This will get progressively better but also know that the end of the quarter is just as bad. Give yourself and your kids a lot of grace. The saying is true “there ain’t no tired like end of the first week of school tired” for the teachers, kids or parents.
8. The most important 16 minutes of the day…
The first 4 minutes when your child wakes up, the last 4 before they get out of the car or walk out the door to go to school, the first 4 when they get in the car or walk in the door and the last 4 before they go to bed are the most important 16 minutes of a child’s day according to multiple psychological studies done. I cannot tell you how many times I put kids in cars where their parents were on their phone or otherwise engaged and didn’t even acknowledge their child. It broke my heart. A child wants to tell you about their day. They want to talk to you, to tell you they missed you and they want the same from you! They want to know they’re wanted, loved, missed and that you’re excited to see them! Use these 16 minutes to connect in a positive way! Tell them good morning and give them a hug and a kiss, kiss them goodbye, tell them to have a great day, ask them something specific about their day. What did you have for lunch? Who did you talk to? How were you a leader today? How did you brighten someone’s day today? Tell them good night. Read to them. Even if they’re in high school. Children stop loving to read about 4th grade because that’s when their parents stop reading to them. Connection is the one thing children and adults are missing the most in this world and we are so desperate for it. Take advantage of these 16 minutes.
If you need help with any of these, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know! My Back to Basics program focuses heavily on many of these topics to help families stop feeling like a runaway circus.