Dear parents sending children back to school,
For some of you, sending children back to school is a joyous day. It’s the day you get your house back, your quiet, your peace. You joyfully put your children on the bus and wave a happy goodbye, or you drive them to school with a jovial “Have a great day!” as you dropped them off and drive away. I get it. Some years I was just like you. August couldn’t get here fast enough because we all needed the routine and the peace it brought. Here are three back to school tips to keep your happiness going.
- Take a moment after school to ask about your child’s day and listen if they want to tell you. Those minutes after school are precious times and the information your child shares will be significantly less at dinner.
- Set aside time to process school information, pay fees, and fill out paperwork. Make sure your child is up to date on immunizations. As the parent of a child with a compromised immune system, I thank you.
- Plan a special dinner to celebrate your child’s first day of school (and silently, your first day of freedom) so everyone is happy about this wonderful day.
Back to school tips when you’re still loving summer
For others, back to school ends a happy summer, and you’re sad to see it go. You wish you had one more day, one more week to squeeze more fun out of summer. You’re not quite ready for routines and practices and homework, but you’ll buckle down and get it done because that’s what parents do. I’ve been there, and I know those memories will carry you to the next break when you can make some more.
- Resist the urge to tell your child how you feel. Instead, focus on what a happy summer you had and how you can make this school year fun as well. Trust me, I did this once and my child was not happy for weeks because I told him I didn’t want school to start either. Big mistake.
- If you’re not ready for routines, getting fees paid and paperwork filled out feels like a chore, but the sooner you take care of that, the better. Reward yourself and your family with a special treat when you finish like a family movie, game night or trip to the ice cream stand.
- Keep those memories alive. Look at photos. Re-create a favorite meal or a favorite moment from summer to keep the joy alive and maybe start planning your next adventure.
Back to school tips for you child with extra needs
Some of you have children with extra needs. I know how scary it is to send your baby into the unknown. You pray more for this child to have a kind, understanding teacher to protect them from bullies. You hope they make a friend or two, maybe for the first time, and you pray you can keep your mama bear claws in check because everyone is follows the IEP, 504 or health plan. Unlike some parents who hope for an extraordinary year, you pray that maybe your child can have a year that looks normal. I’ve been there too, and I pray for all of this for you too.
- I know you will be one of the first parents to fill out your paperwork. It’s almost become part of your DNA to make sure every I is dotted and every T is crossed. You deserve a treat for that whether it’s a moment of family time, a piece of chocolate or a glass of wine. It all counts, and in case no one has told you lately, you rock.
- Send an email to your child’s teacher(s). Introduce yourself and your child. Give enough information to make it easier for your child and the teacher(s) but not enough for them to think they know all about your child. Give them a chance to create a bond of their own, and you may be delighted by the outcome. You can’t control it all, but you can partner with the person or people who will help your child navigate this next school year.
- Connect with other parents who have with children with extra needs. Your children’s needs may be different, but you’ll definitely have stories to tell and support to give that no other parents will understand. If this doesn’t exist in your area, consider starting a group yourself. When advocates work together, miracles happen.
Sending children back to school for the last time
Then there are the parents who are experiencing their lasts; last child to kindergarten, last year at a favorite school, last year of high school. I’ve been there too. It’s scary and exciting to see your babies grow, wondering if you’ve prepared them for this next big step. The truth is, we all do our best, and most of us could have done a little more, but we’re human, and our kids love us anyway, most of the time. Now that my children are grown, I understand this better than ever.
- Whether it’s kindergarten or college, those lasts stay with you. Maybe you are rejoicing. Maybe you are grieving the life you leave behind. Take a moment to enjoy what you can to make this a special moment for you and your child. It’s a gift you give to both of you.
- Make a plan. The parents who enjoy this process most are the ones who have a plan to enjoy their new situation. Celebrate what was and what is coming. When my last child started kindergarten, I scheduled lunches with other kindergarten moms. As my youngest started college, I started writing and blogging and earned my DISC training certification. Do something that makes you happy, and you free your children to be happy too.
- Forgive yourself. You probably forgot to teach your child something or wish you did something better as a parent. Let it go. You cannot change the past, but you can decide to make the future the best it can be. Do that and life will be better for everyone.
Tips for sending kids onto college
As my own nest empties, I’m reminded of the quote that the days are long, but the years fly by. As I move my youngest son to college this month, those words feel truer than ever. On our way to his new, temporary home, we’ll drive by the hospital where he spent his first five weeks of life after I spent 8 weeks there waiting for his birth. I will wonder, as I did with both of his brothers, if I’ve prepared him for adult life. I’ll pray every day that wherever I faltered he will rise to the occasion, and he will forgive me and understand how hard I tried.
A salute to all parents
Whether you’re happy, sad, frightened or something else, I wish you the best year possible, and I salute you all. As I end my daily mothering duties, I turn my attention to helping other mothers be the best they can me, not to be like me, but to be the best version of mom for them. For some that means staying at home. For others that means part or full-time work. The faces and stories of great moms are endless, and nothing makes me happier than to see families thrive. I wrote about that in my book Everyday heroes of Motherhood to encourage moms everywhere. Click here to purchase your copy from Amazon.
Join other parents in the journey to be better
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