Adulthood gives parents the benefit of being able to look back over decades of life and see patterns. It may seem like a repetitious cycle: wake up, eat, go to work, eat, come home, eat, tuck the kids into bed, go to sleep. Rinse and repeat tomorrow. Just so with the rhythms of life that are the school year. Whenever change comes, we plunk it into a place in the overall pattern as best we can and move along.
A Kid’s Perspective:
My kids are all in elementary School. To young kids who have only a few years of experience, transitions can be a challenge. They haven’t had many chances to settle into a pattern. All they know is one morning they are at home in their jammies playing Nintendo, and the next morning Mom and Dad are harping on them, “Get up. Now! Yes, NOW! Eat your cereal, brush your teeth; how many times do I have to tell you to get your lunch out of the fridge?”
How do I, as an aspiring Good Dad, help my kids handle the change from starting the day whenever it feels good to getting back into a precision routine without acting like a Marine Drill Sergeant?
Taking it Slowly
My wife and I use gradual transitions whenever possible with our kids. They tend to be less messy and noisy, and there are fewer chances for short-tempers to blow up. We’ve already started moving out kids’ bedtime to earlier, from the lazy mid-summer time of 9:30-ish back to 9:15, then 9:00, and now 8:45-9:00. Next week school begins on August 15th, and by that time we ought to be back to our traditional 8:30 bedtime. It sounds cliché, but tired kids aren’t as prepared to manage change as well-rested ones.
Focus on Friendship
One thing we have on our side is the kids looking forward to seeing school friends again. When I was younger, I tried to stay in touch with some of my friends over the summer, but since I was at the mercy of wherever the bus routes would take me I was confined to only seeing two or three of them on a regular basis. We’re trying to get our kids thinking about their school friends whom they haven’t seen in almost three months. After all, in elementary school your friends are one of the most important reasons you go to school. Subjects like math and language are just there to provide an excuse for getting together. I’m joking a little, but not much. As much fun as I had learning, the real reason I enjoyed school was getting to be with friends. We start offering tastes of those good times again by meeting up with friends at a park or a pool in early August so the kids can start looking forward to seeing their school friend again.
Being Part of the Process
Oddly enough, my kids enjoy shopping for school supplies. I don’t understand this at all because when I was growing up it was pure torture. I think it’s because my Mom made me try on two dozen pairs of jeans, and I never was into fashion. But my kids like to be involved in the process. Whether it’s the latest style in Magic Markers or a new pair of shoes, they get a thrill out of picking out the materials needed for a successful school year. We embrace this and give the kids a chance to participate. Letting them chose a stylish yet inexpensive pack of pens earns a lot of goodwill.
Hunt the Good Stuff
Our lives revolve around routines. Even as adults, transitions can be hard, which is why my wife and I believe it is critical to teach our children at an early age how to approach changes with a positive attitude. A phrase I borrowed from military resiliency training is learning to “hunt for the good stuff” whenever something disrupts our routine. A new grade, a new classroom, new friends, and new subjects: we win when we find the good things that fit into the rhythm of our lives.