Like it or not, most of our children are back in school. The beginning of the school year brings a lot of anxiety and chaos to many families. We all need to get up earlier, stick to a rigid schedule, fit in extracurricular activities and manage an often uncomfortable school day. Oh, and homework. Enough said.
The truth is, back to school does not have to be a crazy, upsetting process. As parents we can choose to approach this time of year with C.A.L.M.
Remember, C.A.L.M stands for:
- Creating Peace Inside and Out
- Allow for Authentic Success
- Let go of “shoulds’ and shame
- Make Strides Toward Independence
So let’s unpack those ideas into a back to school process.
Creating Peace Inside and Out
This is probably the hardest part of back to school. It’s hard to feel peaceful when the bus is leaving at 6:37 am and your child is still in bed at 6:20 am. Now is the time to structure your child’s morning and evening routines. Set appropriate bedtimes and wake up schedules and stick to them. Be calm and collected when you enforce these rules. Also, try to make your child’s living and homework space calm as well. If they don’t have their own desk, they need one. Support them in finding one place to do homework every day, rather than wander from kitchen to living room to bedroom.
Allow for Authentic Success
This is a biggie for all our friends with learning differences. The current structure of school doesn’t work for most of my clients with ADHD, autism and other learning disabilities. And rather than try to fit a square peg into a round hole and be constantly stressed and upset, we focus on what will make them feel successful. Grades are not an accurate measure of your child’s intelligence or worth. Help your child find a school subject, an activity or a volunteer opportunity where they feel engaged, important and successful. Once they have their “thing” you will see them start to thrive.
Let Go of Shoulds and Shame
Your child “should” do homework when they get off the bus. He “should” have a clean room and she “should” wear an outfit that matches. Let all that nonsense go. If your child is doing “well enough” and has their own style and flair for navigating their responsibilities, let them at it without judgment. And no shaming. Shame never helped one human do better work or be a better person. If your child is stuck and you are frustrated to be honest about your feelings and try to work together to find solutions. Kids are doing the best they can. It’s the very rare child who is defiant on purpose, so we need to often dig deep to find our compassion and help them along.
Make Strides Toward Independence
This is really what school should be about. All of our children need to stride toward as much independence as they are capable of. Learning math for math’s sake may not be their interest, but learning to manage money, start a business, measure wood for building may be the math they really want to master. Support your child to grow up and feel good about their newly emerging skills of independence.
When you focus on C.A.L.M. back to school doesn’t have to be chaos and stress. We can choose to approach things differently and that is the best lesson we can teach our kids.