I catch a glimpse of the calendar and know that school will begin shortly, and that means many families will get back into a routine that will include hustle and bustle to get family members to school, day care, work, and sporting events.
For children, settling into a routine that includes school, homework, sports, playtime and family meals is very important. Children and youth do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent. When we eat and sleep with regular consistency, our bodies adjust and we feel good! Conversely, when we avoid sleep and eat the wrong foods, we pay the price in how we feel!
A study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics reports that family routines support children and their emotional development. And it is the social / emotional health that enables children to thrive in the classroom.
Routines that include singing, bedtime snacks, storytelling and connection with family caregivers are helpful for a good night’s rest. The nurturing we do to help children adjust to “back to school” is proving to be helpful in long term adjustment in both school and home settings.
Talking about the upcoming school routine can help alleviate any anxiety your child may have. Keep communication lines open with your child so that they can feel comfortable discussing with you the fears or questions they may have about the new school year. As a family, your routines are making a difference!
It’s officially August! That means that back-to-school sales are in full swing and are serving as an ever-present reminder that summer is ending soon. Maybe for some of you this is a relief as you’re ready to get back to a regular routine, but maybe for others you are dreading your kiddos heading back-to-school. Either way, the reality is that it is coming (and probably sooner than we think).
So as if the back-to-school sales and the new AUGUST calendar page aren’t reminder enough, we here at the Science of Parenting blog wanted to get your wheels turning on it too! We have one simple reminder or suggestion for you to consider in order to make the back-to-school transition go a little smoother– start communicating about how things will be different when school starts, BEFORE school starts J
Growing up in my family we usually had these conversations over a “family meeting” where everyone was present and knew we would be having the conversation. Find a way that works for you family to have these important conversations. Here’s a few things you may want to consider discussing around the back-to-school transition:
- Logistics, especially things like…
- What kinds of activities will any of your kids be doing beyond attending school (soccer, theater, chess club, etc.),
- What time kids need to be at school or any extra activities,
- Plans are for transportation,
- Daily routines (who gets up first, who showers in the evening vs morning, bedtimes, etc.)
- Family plans and goals
- Is there anything your family wants to do together during the school year? Maybe you’re looking at preparing more meals in advance, or finding time every week to have an hour where everyone is together, or maybe trying out a new hobby as family.
- Give your child a chance to ask questions
- Having conversations ahead of time gives your child several opportunities to ask any questions they may have. Maybe your school age child needs some clarification on where they go after school? Or maybe your teenager wants to talk to you about a some new privileges this year? Either way, having a time when you kids get the chance to ask their questions in a positive environment can help everyone get in the right mindset.
Consider starting the back-to-school conversation soon to make the transition for your family a smooth one!
Summer time meal planning, especially while on vacation is important, if you want to keep costs down and nutritional value high! My family recently returned from a long-distance vacation, and our goal was to enjoy fresh foods all while enjoying the opportunity to be together as a family.
We each took turns helping to prepare the meals. We took turns with set up and clean up too. Meals don’t just happen on vacation, we learned early on, that we could save money, and reduce our food waste by communicating meal plans ahead of time!
We also learned that leaving meal time to chance, was dangerous because we usually consumed too many calories if we ate most of our meals away from home! We discovered how lazy we usually felt following consuming big meals that had large portion sizes. We knew our time was better spent organizing our meals ahead of time, so that we could enjoy the company of family members who traveled near and far to vacation together!
Children too, can help decide food menus! They know the type of foods they like, and will eat, if offered. Eating together offers an opportunity to practice social skills, including table manners and conversation, as well as basic food preparation skills.
Because we had a table full of aunts, uncles, and cousins at meal time, we tried to eliminate distractions by turning off the TV, and putting our mobile phones in a basket on the counter! The conversations were rich with stories of card games played; swimming basketball scores and plans for upcoming hikes to the nearby falls!
Children do better when they have a routine to their lives; and that includes mealtime, even while on vacation. Explore ways individual schedules can be adjusted to allow mealtime together. For more help with recipes, check out the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Spend Smart Eat Smart website!
What’s it like at your house on weekday mornings? Do both the parents and kids leave calm and relaxed, ready for the day? Or, is it a hectic scene with frazzled nerves, lost items, and late departures?
As a parent you can help your child learn how to prepare for a happier morning – or if like me you’re not a morning person at least a morning without rushing. And while you are helping your child learn some skills that will serve her well, perhaps you are also changing some of your own habits.
Start by going to bed earlier. It may take a while for your body to adjust but eventually you will be able to get up at an earlier time and feel alert. Plan on at least 1-1/2 hours for morning preparation. That way there is time to get dressed, have breakfast, and leave the house on schedule.
Precious time can be lost looking for things so involve the family in creating a storage place near the door for all the important “stuff.” Have a hanger and basket for each family member. This becomes the place for keys, school papers, backpacks, purses, letters, etc. Then in the morning it is a quick stop on the way out the door.
Getting kids dressed in the morning has caused more than a few tears and arguments. Head this one off by choosing clothes the night before. Make it part of the bedtime routine. Have your child pick out his clothes for the next day (including underwear and shoes) and lay them out. This works for parents too. I’m always amazed that when I don’t’ do this, I can spend an extra 10 minutes in the morning finding something to wear.
Encourage everyone to help with the morning tasks. Adults and kids can prepare their own lunches if that is needed. Have one of the kids set the breakfast table the night before so that job is already done. Then sit down for 15 minutes and have breakfast. Your family will ready for the day. You might be surprised how good you will feel when you arrive at work, on time, and relaxed knowing the rest of the family is also off to a good start.
What do you do at your home to get the day off to a good start? Do you have any tips to share to help avoid the morning rush?
I hope everyone had a great 4th of July! Mine was spent at a small resort town, where as with most towns, a highlight for everyone is the big fireworks display. We did our best to prep my 3 year old cousin for the event, including talking with her about what she could expect (loud lights, big “booms”), and giving her earplugs. Despite our best efforts, she still found the big “booms” terrifying, and had to retreat into the house with her mom. Some of you may have experienced a similar situation with your children this 4th.
If such a beautiful display of lights can cause such fear and angst for a child, imagine what feelings a natural disaster could evoke. In line with this month’s podcast about natural disasters, I wanted to highlight a few important steps that parents can take to help their children in the event of a natural disaster.
- Let your children know that you are there to keep them safe. Let them know you are still a family, you will still provide a safe environment, and you will make it through this.
- Ask your children what they’ve seen, what they’ve heard, and how they feel about it. Children will need a chance to discuss their feelings. Listen to them, reassure them of their safety, and give them lots of hugs and love. You will likely need to revisit the topic multiple times, as the information, understanding, and feelings children have about the event will change and need to be discussed. It can also be helpful for you and/or your children to speak with a grief counselor.
- Maintain routines or rituals. Maintaining activities that provide a sense of security and comfort can help your children cope with the events. For example, eating dinner together or reading a book before bed can help children feel a sense of normalcy and comfort.
What questions do you have about helping your child cope with natural disasters?