By Hattie Grace
Does every school year feel like a blurry whirlwind of stuffing backpacks, dragging kids out of bed, and racing out the door, only to return home later with the same frenzied rush through dinner, extra-curricular activities, homework, and bedtime? This year, make these 10 resolutions for better, more- productive (and less-exhausting!) school days.
Routines may seem boring, but kids really thrive on them. From day one of the school year, help your family get into the school-day groove by planning efficient, never-miss-the-bus mornings or if you drive them, never miss the bell mornings.
Do yourself a favor this school year, Mom, and teach those kiddos to tackle some tasks themselves. Kindergarteners should be able to handle basic grooming — such as bathing and brushing their hair and their teeth — without your help. Older elementary school children should be an expert at handling their chores, and teens should be very self-reliant without you having to awake them and get them out of the door. Anything that you can take off your plate and reasonably delegate will help your household run like a well-oiled machine.
Help at Your Child’s School
Most schools are strapped for resources and can use all the help it can get. Lending a hand when you can feels great and benefits both your child and the school community. That said, don’t feel obliged to become the Mother Theresa of the PTA if it’s at the expense of your family’s sanity. Consider helping your child’s classroom or in the school office. Also, it is a good practice to show up and just observe your child in her classroom no matter what grade they are in. Do let the teacher know that you will be attending. This sends a message to the teacher and your child that education is a priority with your family.
Stick with an After-School Routine
Having an after-school routine may sound counterintuitive (the kids have had structure all day in school!) — but hear me out. If your child gets in the habit of unpacking his bag, going over his assignments daily, and making sure he has all the materials he needs, that saves you from having to track to the store late at night to buy supplies or materials that they need for a project that is due the next day.
Make Homework Time Painless
Let’s face it: Homework time isn’t exactly fun. But as a parent, you can take some steps to make it a little less painful. Having a designated workspace for your kids, or asking your teen to abandon his cell phone during homework time can make all the difference in the world of homework efficiency.
Create a regular schedule, allowing for adequate study and free time. Most kids are most productive earlier in the evening and not too close to bedtime, but others need a little after-school play break and dinner, or at least an energizing snack, before hitting the books. The most important thing is to establish a routine that works for your child.
Keep Kids’ Schedules Manageable
Does your school-year calendar look like a solid block of sports practices, dance recitals, music rehearsals, and birthday parties? This might be the perfect year to cut back on extracurriculars. Over-scheduling children depletes their energy and enthusiasm. Talk with your child about which sport or activity she truly enjoys, and stick with one activity per season so that she can still focus on school and just being a kid. If your family is hooked on being overbooked, write “Downtime!” on your calendar one day a week and make it happen.
Communicate with the Teacher
Communicating with your child’s teacher helps both you and the teacher support one another and your child. Launch a strong relationship with the teacher by attending open houses, orientations and any events that you attend during the school year. Building strong ties with the teacher is especially important for parents of struggling students or children with learning differences.
Make Time for Family Dinners
While you may not have time for a homemade, sit-down dinner every night, regular family dinners add something special to your family’s day. They’re a time to take a breather, check in with each child about what’s going on, and share a few laughs before it’s back to the grind of homework time and preparing for another day.
Establish Screen-Time Limits
Most of us are guilty of too much screen time these days, and children are especially hooked on their tech-y toys. Instead of playing outdoors, many kids reach for video games, tablets, and cell phones for fun. Limit TV time. And cell phone time. And laptop time. Unless your child needs to use the computer for her homework assignment or her phone to consult with a classmate (hint: confirm that claim is true!) make your child surrender her technology to you during homework time. It’s a really hard line to draw and enforce, especially with tech-obsessed tweens and teens — but the better she focuses, the sooner she’ll complete her work and be free to text and tweet away.
Be Firm About a Bedtime Routine
Bedtimes are hugely important for kids. Most children don’t get the amount of sleep they need. Setting a firm “lights out” time and using a consistent bedtime routine will help your child catch number of zzz’s she really needs to get through eight hours of learning and growing tomorrow.