The school year has definitely begun, as evidenced by yellow school buses on the road and a flood of first day pictures on social media. There’s an excitement in the air – but let’s admit, a bit of dread too. I remember when my kids headed back to the classroom; they were excited about new backpacks and school clothes, new teachers and seeing old friends again. I shared their excitement, but was well aware that the new school year brought with it more structure, busy schedules, a multitude of events and activities, and of course homework, dreaded homework. I knew that when my kids went back to school, it meant we all went back in school.
Like it or not, you need to adjust just about everything you did over summer, for your kids to get what they need for school. It’s all for the best and there’s a big payoff, especially for visual kids and parents.
Here are some things that need to be addressed for your kids to have a chance at a good year.
Create routines – Whether it’s getting up, eating and out the door in the morning; the after school plan, homework or bedtime routines; planning what and when things need to happen will benefit everyone involved. If you’re resistant to routines for yourself, time to readjust because your kids really need them. Routines create predictability, which our visual kids have to have. They need to know what to expect and what’s expected of them, so they can focus on getting it done. Routines also allow kids to operate independently, a good life skill and it means lots less pressure on busy parents.
Get organized – Routines are about what needs to happen when. Getting organized is about planning where things are going to happen. As you put away bathing suits and summer play, think about what your kids are going to need for school. Make space for a dedicated homework area, that’s well stocked. Track schedules and activities on a large calendar in the kitchen so everyone can see and share what’s happening – visually. Decide where backpacks are kept, school papers, library books, and other important school material. This will require a lot of preplanning and organizing, which may or may not come naturally to you. If it’s not your favorite thing to do, enlist help because it’s a non-negotiable for your kids.
Plan food – Here’s one of your biggest opportunities and where the most change may need to happen. First – don’t believe anything a TV commercial says is a good breakfast for you or your kids. They’re just trying to sell you stuff. Your kids are headed into the classroom and need to be able to focus. Sugar loaded food and drinks aren’t going to work. Kids might seem energized after eating sugar, but they’re going to crash before they even get off the bus. The brain doesn’t do well on sugar. It needs protein to think and focus. Your kids need food that fuels and sustains learning.
Sleep is a good thing – Studies show elementary aged kids need 9 to 11 hours of sleep a night, and in the majority of homes it’s just not happening. Life is busy. If you get home from work late, you’re rushing through dinner, there may still be homework. A little TV and tech time and before you know it, it’s way past bedtime. As adults, we get used to operating on less sleep than we need, but it’s not okay to impose that on our kids. Not getting enough sleep can lead to behavior problems at home and in school, struggles with moods and emotions, impaired learning and weakened immune systems.
To get your kids what they need, get a plan in place and stick to it. Make it visual, so kids can keep themselves on track. And it’s not just for your elementary aged kids, tweens and high schoolers need just as much sleep. Get homework done earlier, unplug tech gadgets, turn out the lights and happy slumber to all.
Get involved in extra-curricular activities – The majority of elementary schools, middle and high schools, offer afterschool enrichment classes. When kids participate after school, they feel more connected to their school overall and can enroll in classes that are not part of the normal school day. This is good news for kids and schools, especially when those classes involve the arts. School is focused on developing left brain thinking and memory skills, and the arts are often ignored. It’s just the way it is. But our visual kids desperately need classes focused on developing the right side of the brain. Piano, band, dance, and art classes are the kinds of classes they’ll thrive in and after school is a great time and place to find them.
Enjoy these first days of school but get your routines and organization in place before the enthusiasm wears off. Host a family meeting and take a few minutes to plan things out together that way everyone is on board. A well rested, well fed child with structure and support at home and an outlet for their creativity can conquer the world. Give them those tools today!