The Busy Parent’s Guide to a Less-Stressful Back-to-School Month

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It’s that time of year; the whole family tries to assume a semi-normal routine once again and summer holidays seem like a distant memory. However, flashy new pencil cases and the latest sport shoes are not quite enough to secure a happy and healthy return to school and, for working parents – and their children – this can become a very stressful period. The coming month plays a huge role in setting the tone for a rewarding and pleasant academic year, so it’s crucial to tackle it mindfully, regardless of how busy you might be. These simple tricks will help ensure a smoother month for the entire family. 

Build Your Child's Confidence

In today’s world, competition and performance affects all of us. Our children also suffer from this result-based mentality and, while it’s important to set goals to work towards, this needs to be done in a healthy environment. What is crucial at this time of year is to define objectives with our children – objectives that may not be so quantifiable but that are measurable in the “feel good” chart.

Let’s say your daughter has been forgetful of her class material last year. A simple goal could be for her to remember to show up to her classes ready. If your son is a chatterbox, his new school-year resolution can be to make the conscious choice of sitting away from his friends in class. While these little steps seem minimal, they are huge for the child. They are important because they empower the child to take ownership of her learning, develop confidence, and feel proud of her actions. That is powerful. At this time of year, academic result-based conversations can wait; what matters is to set a positive tone, bring up children’s confidence level, and allow them to realize that they own their power.

Be Smart About Activities

A return to school means a return to weekly scheduling, extracurricular activities, and the sports club. Children involved in activities other than academics are more social, cope better with changes, and are generally happier as they are exercising both their mind and their body in various stimulating ways, but it’s crucial to make smart and reasonable choices in selecting these.

Firstly, shuttling kids around town to various activities can really become a stressful experience and a burden on both your time and theirs, which it shouldn’t be. Keep convenience in mind and look for options in your neighborhood, consult your local school for the extracurricular program, try to arrange transportation with other parents, or pair up activities in the same venue to avoid additional driving.

Secondly, it is vital that you don’t impose an activity on them, but rather offer your children options to choose from. Parents risk trying to live vicariously through their children by forcing them into activities that they themselves did not succeed in during their own childhood – and that is to be entirely avoided. The bonus of having them choose their activity is that they will always be happy to go; their attendance will never become something you fight over. Remember that extracurricular activities are meant to be fun.

Make Time for Your Children One Way or Another

Traveling for work and running from meeting to meeting well into the early night could very well be part of your reality. However, while your career is essential to your self-satisfaction, you also have the duty to be present and available for your children. It may be physically impossible for you to be there for dinner or bedtime, but on those days it’s encouraged that you decide on a means of communication for you and your child to have a catch-up. Knowing their schedule, you could arrange for a call so that each one of you can share their day’s highlights. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy call, but those few minutes will go a long way. Feeling reassured by this routine, your children will start looking forward to that time of day, and they will prepare and think of what is it they want to share. That positive interaction will play a role in building their confidence and encourage them to talk about feelings, challenges, and successes.

Favor Sleep

We’re all guilty of overusing our smart devices, but it’s imperative that we limit our children’s time on them, especially before bedtime, to reduce the effect of the blue light emitted by the screen on their brain. The general recommendation is to avoid looking at a screen for at least an hour before bedtime. How many times have you, as an adult, lost sleep over the last e-mail you read before putting your phone down on your bedside table? Imagine what playing a video game or watching video clips can do to your children. It activates their brain and their senses when they should be calming down and preparing for bed. If they need a way to relax, encourage them to read a book. Whether they like it or not, children all have to read at least 30 minutes a day for school, and scheduling that just before bedtime can set a nice peaceful routine.

It’s recommended for children and teenagers to sleep between nine and twelve hours a night, and it’s essential to take that into consideration when it comes to your family’s routine. If for instance, you come home late from work and sleep later as a result, that should not impact your children’s bedtime schedule. Sleep allows brain development and improves their mood and focus. It’s also key for a happy and healthy return to school.

Schedule It All In

Being organized can save a lot of time and trouble. To ensure your children know when their extracurricular activities are, the time of your daily catch-up, and their bedtime, building a visual schedule with them can be a fantastic tool that the whole family will refer to. This visual chart, in an accessible place and height for the whole family to see, will reduce the anxiety of constantly having to remind your children of their schedule and will also go a long way in empowering them. By knowing when and what is expected of them, they will learn how to manage their time and gain confidence by taking responsibility for themselves. That visual chart can also become a place of reward to highlight successes. It may take time to define a format suitable for your family, but involving your children in the process can not only turn this into a fun, crafty project but also allow you to teach them how to refer to it and use it when you’re not home. 

The keys to a happy and healthy return to school are consistency and balance. A healthy routine with positive communication will allow the whole family to feel reassured and supported during this time of change. 

Mélanie Lapointe has been an international educator for seven years and offers home tutoring in Dubai. Contact her here.  

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