Settling back into the school routine can be very challenging. When you are parenting school age children, the best way to make a plan is to do it together with your children, here are some tips to support you.
- Call a family meeting. If you have not tried this before, try not to be skeptical as it can be very effective. By bringing the whole family together, you are making a statement – this is our family and our issue to resolve together – which is a really good principle to parent by. If you need extra advice on how to do this, read our ’10 ways to’ run a family meeting.
- When you have all the family in one place, make your statement – school is back on, how can we ensure a good term ahead for everyone?
- Ask each person to say what they need in the next term. You should expect various responses, from ‘no nagging’, to ‘not wanting homework’, to needing ‘time out with friends’. This is normal, take note of all suggestions.
- Once you have a list of what everyone needs, then you can start to explore if and how these needs can be met.
- If you have older children, maybe they can offer to help meet the needs of younger children, such as supporting them with homework.
- Be sure to name your needs and be reasonable. Try to keep them very specific, e.g. “I need to know homework is done every day.” “I need everyone in bed at a reasonable time.” “I need everyone to take a level of responsibility around getting ready for school in the mornings.”
- Agree what each person can do for themselves. “Everyone has their own alarm clock.” “Everyone makes their own sandwiches” – once they are over about 7 years old. Your job is to provide the food, agree what needs to be available and to supervise the lunch making, but you do not have to be responsible for filling the boxes.
- Once you have agreed on the key principles of what everyone needs to do, allow some space and variation in how each person achieves them. If you have older children and teenagers, try not to schedule every minute for them. Allow them choose when homework will be done, within reason. It is, after all, their homework. Allow them some choice around free time after school before homework starts. Allow them to choose when they eat. You can prepare dinner, but is it reasonable to expect everyone to eat at the same time? You can also agree on family time and when you schedule some time together as a family.
- If we try to control everything our children do, we are just setting ourselves up for failure – along with exhaustion! As parents, it is important we remember that our role is to prepare children for life. Allowing them to make choices and have some control is part of this process. If your child is never allowed to plan their own time and make reasonable choices, how will they learn? How will you know what they are capable of?
- Look after yourself well. In order to parent our children effectively, we must learn to parent ourselves. Take time out for you. Be creative in how you can get this time. You will have thought of many of your own needs during this process and your children are not responsible for meeting them. You need to find ways to meet them yourself. In this way you will have the patience and energy to listen, understand and engage in positive ways with your children.
This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips.
For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or on 01 662 9212.