September means back to school and that can be a tough transition time for families. To help parents out, I am offering my best short tip for each age to ensure everyone gets the year off to a good start:
Young children are still very dependant on their parents, hence they are more unsure when they are left in unfamiliar surroundings with new people. Help children anticipate the first day by visiting their new nursery school or day care so they can meet their new teacher and see their surroundings in advance of the first drop off.
Parental attitudes are infectious; so its important you broadcast the message that you trust your child to manage and that everything will be fun! Instead of lingering at drop off which only prolongs their stress, have a happy snappy good bye and exit quickly. Children settle into the classroom and get distracted more quickly once their parents are gone. Be sure to arrive on time for pick-ups too. Once the pick up process starts, your child wants assurance you are coming for them. If you arrive late, they fear you have forgotten them or something has happened to you. For more on Happy Snappy Goodbyes….
2. MIDDLE SCHOOL
Growing up is all about increasing a child’s skills and autonomy. In the middle school years your child should be taking charge of getting themselves up, caring for their personal possessions and looking after the preparation of their own breakfast and lunches. Think of how much time this will save you if you spend the time in advance training them on these skills! We call that “TTFT”, short for “take time for training”.
This means explaining that if they loose their backpack or lunch box, they are responsible for replacing their lost property with their own money. It also means clarifying that you will no longer be nagging and reminding them, or driving back to school if they leave something on the playground. You trust them to face the logical consequences.
Making their own breakfast and packing their own lunches increases the likelihood they actually eat! It also gives them a sense of self-determination they enjoy and builds their self-esteem, not to mention reducing power struggles and increasing overall co-operation. Ask them to make a list of food favorites so you have the right groceries in the house and trust them to gather it together for themselves. For more responsibilities by age……
Meet your teenager! A lot changes in the high school years, and a lot of our old parenting methods have to be thrown out as we create a new style of parenting relationship with our budding adult. To ensure we appreciate the unique person they are becoming we have to back off even more and allow them to take the central role in the management of their life. This is a polite way of saying we need to back off on our tendencies to micromanage and control our teens. This is an important time for them to learn about time management and self-discipline in their study habits. That could potential mean allowing our high-schoolers to fail a test or flunk out of a course. These should be viewed as valuable teachable moments. Parents can help them process where things went off the rails and how they might make different plans in the future to avoid the previous pitfalls they experienced. If they learn what structures they need to learn independently now, they are better prepared for post secondary education where you really have to go it alone.
4. COLLEGE / UNIVERSITY
Young adults are both nervous and exhilarated about living away from home. However, they are still minors and parents should remind them that the fun of frosh week and orientation could involve alcohol. It’s important to review your family values and to share your expectation of them to act as wise law-abiding citizens. That means no underage drinking. When our relationship with our children is healthy and they respect us, they don’t want to let us down. If we say we trust them, they are less likely to engage in underage drinking. Easier said than done. For more on getting the conversation started check out my video series on preventing under age drinking.