Where did summer go?!
Wow – how is it August already? I feel like I missed a few months! As summer winds down, our kiddos (and even some of us) have to face to reality of heading back to school, can present serious challenges for many kids and parents.
As signs of autumn begin to appear, it is easy to think “good bye summer; hello tight schedules and stacks of homework.” But summer coming to a close doesn’t have to be a sorrowful event. Yes, the days are shorter and the morning air greets us with a cool crispness. However, this time of year is also a symbol of the start of something new and fresh. We can welcome its presence and still hold on to the joys of summer. As you prepare for the start of a new school year, consider the following ideas to help beat those back to school blues in healthy and creative ways.
- Throw a “Welcome to Fall” Party. Over the summer, it’s easy to become adrift from friends and colleagues. Summer is a time for travel, exploration, family reunions, and long lazy summer days. Kick off the fall season positively by creating an opportunity to reconnect with those friends you may have missed over the summer. This is a perfect time to incorporate a healthy fall recipe exchange as “tickets” to the party.
- Reset Sleep Cycles. Summer allows us to be a little more relaxed and less tied to a specific academic schedule. It can be very difficult to welcome a new school year while fighting fatigue. A couple of weeks before the first day of school, try to get everyone back to a “normal” sleep cycle. This will help prepare you and your family for those early mornings.
- Table Talk. Family meal time is a perfect setting to talk with your kids about their questions, concerns, and excitement as they prepare for a new year. Engage them in thoughtful conversations; help them overcome what they are most fearful of and celebrate those aspects of school that get them motivated and excited to learn. As a warm-up, involve your kids in the meal selection and preparation.
- Celebrate a Successful First Day. Plan something fun to do with your family – a trip to your kids’ favorite restaurant, a family movie or game night, or other event your family enjoys. This will give you a chance to ask your kids about the highlights of the first day. Keep it positive and energized and help them focus on the “plusses” of the day.
- Plan Ahead. Fall demands more regimented schedules. Think ahead and plan head. A family calendar helps with the management of important events, assignments, deadlines, games, and recitals. Checklists are useful tools before the first week of school, especially if you have more than one child going to more than one school. Once the calendar is organized and the checklist is completed, set out all necessary items, school books, supplies, gym clothes, etc. before going to bed the night before. This will reduce the amount of chaos come the dawn.
- Snack Attack. No doubt, children are hungry – all the time. To help your kids develop healthy snack habits, create a menu of snack options with them. Embrace the division of responsibility: you, as the parent, choose what foods are available in the house; your kids then choose between the available items and decide how much they would like to consume. Giving kids healthy options for after-school snacks will fuel their minds for any remaining daily homework or projects. If the snacks require preparation such as chopping vegetables, making humus, slicing fruit, etc., try to set aside time on the weekend to make the preparations. Divide out the snacks in single serving baggies or containers.
- SMART Goals. Before the school year begins, talk with your family about goals they would like to accomplish over the next year. Goal setting is an incredibly effective way to motivate you and your family and it offers an element of accountability. The goal, whatever it may be, should be Specific, Measurable, Relevant, and Time-defined.
- Create a “Learning Zone”. The availability of space can be a limiting factor in any household; however, you and your family need a space to work and learn outside of the office and school. Look for creative ways to use the space available to develop a designated “learning zone” where your kids can study and finish homework. Encourage them to help you decorate the space.
- Fall Family Tradition. While summer may be spent camping, fishing, traveling, or lounging, consider how you can introduce a new family tradition to help celebrate the coming of fall. Perhaps this comes in the form of a family book club or a family game night. Involve your spouse and kids in this discussion; you may end up with far more than one single new tradition to enjoy.
As always, physical activity is crucial to health and mental well-being. Kids and adults often spend a great deal of time behind a desk, staring at a screen, an iPad or other device for several hours a day. If your child’s school does not prioritize physical education, find ways to incorporate activity at home. Pre-dinner soccer matches in the backyard, after-dinner walks, basketball in the park, or other similar activities are great ways to help kids expend some energy and improve their overall health and academic performance. Don’t forget, you benefit, too!
These tips in no way represent an exhaustive list of the many ways in which we can welcome the fall season. If you have other ideas or tips, share them with your friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Fall is the start of something beautiful; embrace it, celebrate it, and share the joy of a fresh start.
And remember, it’s All About That Balance.