When I was a kid and was overwhelmed, my mom would say, how would you eat an elephant, would you swallow it whole? I mean that sounds awful, eating and elephant and all, but as a kid, it is a great visual! No, you would have to take it one bite at a time. Sometimes as adults, we forget that categorizing and breaking down big tasks into smaller bite sized chunks is the best way to function and get things done without having the elephant sit on you and crush you! So, in honor of National Son’s and Daughter’s day today and the inevitable back to school looming around the corner, let’s help our littles (and bigs) break down back to school so it isn’t an elephant, but a nice manageable, tasty snack!
Going back to school is scary and crazy! There are so many things to worry about for a kid; clothes, friends, classes, where do I go, lunch, homework, locker coms, waking up early, clubs, teachers, books, supplies, sports, the bus, and on and on. In fact, to this day, one of my recurring nightmares is being in high school and it being midterm and I have forgotten one of my classes and can’t remember how to get there and don’t know anything that’s happened for the first half of the year. It’s a helpless feeling.
Breaking down this elephant for your kid can help them feel comfortable going back to school and help you in the dreaded school blues!
One great way to start is to sit down and talk to your kiddo. Ask them straight up what they are worried about. Really listen and understand the issues that are most concerning and write them down. Some you can’t control and some you can. This is also a great time to set your expectations for the year. One great technique for setting expectations and enforcing them is to let your kid(s) decide (with some direction) what the consequences are for NOT meeting the expectations. That way, they have issued their own consequence and it is a little bit harder for them to get mad at you when consequences come in to play.
Here are a few back to school hacks of the most common dreaded issues:
Unless you have a really big budget, you will have to be creative in school shopping. I mean seriously, stylish underwear are now $15 each, name brand socks are $25 each and jeans are over $100! This is madness. When I was a kid, we got a 7 pack of underwear and a 7 pack of socks and they were each under $5! And the marketing ploys to get people to pay these crazy amounts for socks and underwear are both evil and brilliant all in one!
Shopping online can be a great resource. Many retailers offer free shipping and if something doesn’t work, they also offer returns at the brick and mortar locations. One trick I have used is going to the brick and mortar location, trying on sizes and styles and then going online to their “sale” section. Each store only has a limited sale rack with limited sizes, but online the selection is much greater. My son’s favorite jeans in the store are $100+ and online are $67.
Most places will also have an email or a text opt in. Don’t get me wrong, they are incessant and obnoxious, BUT… when a good sale comes out, you are the first to know and can snag some great deals. For example, Hollister is a popular store for teenagers. Their clothes aren’t outrageously priced, but are on the higher end. Their jeans often go on sale for $25 each and their t-shirts for $5. You can’t get less than that at Wal Mart.
Once you have a few outfits to get you going, another great tool is to help your kiddo pick out their outfits for the week on Sunday night. Let them help you pick and lay them out, or get a special organizer labeled with each day of the week. If you have teens, encourage them to hang them together in their closet. When I was a kid, I made a huge calendar on my wall and actually put together a month at a time down to the last detail in socks, underwear, belts, earrings and bracelets. Let’s just say, I like things in order!
This makes getting ready in the morning so much smoother. They aren’t fighting about what to wear, they are clean and ready to go and they aren’t running through the house like a Tasmanian Devil trying to find their favorite jeans that happen to be in the washer and now the day is ruined and it isn’t even 7am yet :o).
Making friends is tough. How do I say hi, what if they don’t like me, what if they are rude, what if they already have friends…
One clever way to help your little one reach out is by giving them a few extra treats or snacks in their backpack or lunch. It’s pretty rare to find a kid that will turn down a cookie or a fruit snack, even if they are in high school! Pack your littles (or bigs) with some extra treats or snacks. Talk through some scenarios and hope this will be one small way to ease into conversation.
I still hate that word. And to be honest, the amount of work coming home is outrageous and it is getting more and more and younger and younger. Kids are going to school for 8+ hours a day and are doing 3+ hours at home on top of sports. Where is there time to be a kid?
Unfortunately, although homework is inevitable, there are a few tricks to making it a little less painful.
Set up a homework station. This is a place that is comfortable, well lit, has all of the supplies right there and isn’t away from everything. Kids don’t want to be in a corner or in a closet or by themselves, they want to be around the action. If you can set up designated space and let your kiddo pick out fun supplies and even a little décor, this spot will not be so dreadful.
Break it up. I have to get up and move in my day and kids are even more fidgety. Let them have a snack and a break. Again, eat that elephant in pieces. Show them that each piece is manageable and they will be able to get through it much easier.
Know what their homework is. It is your job as a parent to know what is due and when it is due and to help keep your student on track. High school kids should be responsible enough, but let’s be honest, they are more interested in dating and food than college (well most of them anyway!). Seriously, I have a phone and notebooks and notes and I still forget things. Kids do too and they aren’t nearly as well equipped as we are. There are great apps out there to help them organize and manage homework and you can as well. And most schools now have all of the work online. I haven’t been as impressed with the upkeep of these sites so far, but some are better than others.
GETTING OUT OF BED:
Some kids pop right out of bed, some are like dragging a sleeping elephant out of bed, not going to happen. Mine was great until high school. Studies show that the older kids are actually wired to stay up later and sleep in longer. School, sadly, does not follow this schedule. So, how can you get your kids out of bed without dumping ice water on their head (my mom used to do this to my brother, last resort, but always worked :o).
Make sure they are getting enough sleep. If electronic devices are an issue, there are apps you can put on their phone to control the hours they are active. It’s ok, you aren’t a mean parent for doing that, you are a responsible parent!
Let them pick out exciting breakfasts. Something to look forward to is always better to get up to.
Cook something that smells too good to sleep through. If you have to be out early, Sunday nights are a great time to prepare breakfasts for the week that can be thrown in the oven or microwave quickly and there are HUNDREDS of ideas on the internet to get you going.
Use a wake up light, or slowly start turning on lights surrounding their room
If you have a pet, let them help. It’s really hard to stay asleep when Fido is licking your face!
Establish rewards for getting up without a fight
Play with them softly like tickles, kisses, etc.
School is all around stressful! Help your kids break that cycle of stress with planned activities. Something for them to look forward to, in the middle of the week. This can be small things like a trip to the dollar store, or an ice cream, or the park.
The biggest kicker here is to plan it and let them look forward to it.
And, as hard as it can be when your little Tasmanian is tearing through the house on a rampage, remember when you were little and that school is tough, and being a kid is tough. It is our job to help them through and be the adult! Teach them how to eat that elephant one bite at a time and they will be more successful, happy, and productive teens and adults.