During the school year The Routine keeps the family on a short leash, jolting us into each day: “Get up or you’ll be late! Quit hogging the bathroom! Quit texting and finish your breakfast! Where’s your homework? Don’t forget your cleats! Get going!!”
Then summer comes. We exhale. We’re off leash. The voice inside our head takes a vacation and happily forgets to write. We feel free. And it dawns on us that, yes, we are human beings, not machines.
Hopefully every adult and child in your family had some special time during the break. Time together for fun and bonding. Time on alone for fun and self-discovery.
Now’s the time to get back in gear. It’s an adjustment for everyone. But for some kids going back to school is a real challenge, especially if last year wasn’t memorable in a good way. Maybe there was a personality clash with a “difficult” teacher. Or the (home)work repeatedly overwhelmed brain and emotions. Maybe there were issues with friends or ex-friends that made school a battlefield. If any of this happened to your kids, not surprising they don’t want to go back. But go they must.
So your job is to make it easier. Call a family meeting to debrief from last school year. Because let’s face it, not everything you and your kids did last term is worth replaying. It’s probably safe to say that a lot of what went down ought to be avoided. NOTE: I’m not implying that all the social garbage and arguments were intentional or avoidable, but I do know this:
1. It takes one person to start an argument. But it takes two people to keep it going.
2. Doing nothing in the face of a bad situation typically encourages more of the same.
3. People aren’t mind-readers. You’ve gotta tell them how you feel and actively teach them how to treat you.
4. Pain is part of life.
5. Suffering (blaming, feeling sorry for yourself, and/or rehashing) are optional.
So gather the troops for a safe and open conversation about what you each did (at home, at school, and online) that worked well last year and what didn’t. This may take 30 minutes, give or take, so schedule accordingly. If you blow off the family meeting rules (no interrupting, no invalidating, etc.) it’ll take longer and accomplish much less. More tips for a successful family meeting:
- Turn off all digital devices.
- Insist on respectful listening. Model it too.
- Bring snacks.
- Appoint a “secretary” to record new family agreements and policy. That way later, no one can get away with “I/You never said that!”
- Meet together regularly for progress reports. Celebrate what’s working. Tweak what isn’t.
Working together, as a family, you can contribute to a better school year for your kids and yourself. Good luck!
PS I’ll be writing more about Back-to-School challenges in the coming days. Stay tuned.