Ah, the sound of nothing. Simon and Garfunkel called it the sound of silence. Ask any mother what her house sounds like after the kids are packed off to their first day of school and she’ll tell you it is pure, unadulterated bliss. Is there anything better than the sight of that school bus after a long summer? A new school year is a blessing, but just when you thought things were working out bam! it’s also a bit of curse. Suddenly, after several months of lackadaisical schedules and weakened rules, kids are put right back in the middle of the action. Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, double-check the homework. It’s all enough to make a tween or teen lose their summer glow. The same goes for parents. Suddenly, you need to put your General’s hat back on and issue all kinds of orders. The question is how do you go from lazy summer days to a productive school year without the battle cries?
Five Ways to Figure it Out without Fighting:
1. There is no right answer.
Talk to your friends and your kids’ friends and you’ll find that everyone thinks they have the answer. Do the homework right off the bus, save it for after dinner, don’t do it at all (no, not really), everyone thinks their way is the right way. The truth is that each kid is different. Some kids need to blow off steam after school, so let them do their thing and unwind a bit. If your kid wants to get everything done right away, then go for it. Make the routine around their individual personality and there will be fewer squabbles.
2. Get a Stopwatch for Sports.
We’re not suggesting a literal stopwatch, but placing a time restriction for sports and activities helps make them work with, rather than against, the schedule. Your child doesn’t need to do it all, so limit activities to favorites to avoid over-scheduling (and exhausting) your kids.
3. Hand over the Reins.
Kids really do respond when you let them make their own decisions. It’s really not your responsibility to see that they make soccer practice or finish their spelling homework. Teachers and administrators expect your kids to be responsible for themselves, so why not employ that a little more at home? Sit down with your kids, ask them what they have to do and want to do and let them determine what it will take to get it all done. Step in when they need some guidance, but in general, let them find their path. Working parents who might not be home in time to sit down with their kids at the end of each school day can schedule a phone call at the same time each day.
Get a calendar for the family and put it in a central location, like the kitchen or mud room. Make every person in the household over the age of 10 responsible for posting their must-attend events for the upcoming week by Sunday evening. Also establish a system for communicating schedule changes. For example, all schedule changes need to be made in red or noted on a special “Notes” board next to the calendar and texted to mom and dad. Once something is put on the master calendar, employ the no-tolerance rule. If it’s on the public calendar, it’s public knowledge; if not, it’s not. If someone whines “I forgot to put it on the calendar,” that’s their problem to fix, not yours. Trust us, they’ll learn quickly.
5. Control the Clutter.
If you have a child in elementary school, you’re more than familiar with the projects, drawings, and otherwise indescribable objects that come home, but all kids in all grades come home with lots of stuff that can quickly become a clutter pile. Make a concerted effort to review items when they come and dump the stuff that doesn’t need to stay. The baking soda volcano can go – just take a pic with your kid for posterity and you’ll have the memory without the mess. Get a bin for important documents (like permission slips, teacher notes) and get your kids in the habit of sorting their stuff when they get home.
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