Tips for parents just trying to keep up
You don’t know where the time goes, it just goes. Summer’s over and the kids are back to school. Meanwhile, nothing’s changed for you, it’s that endless grind, trudging on daily with the 9 to 6, making ends meet and just doing your best. You bought the kids all the school supplies they need, and although you don’t expect to be a recipient of a Parent of the Year reward you want to do as much for them as possible. The following is a summary of a few things you can consider. First, help get their mind in shape…
Similar to an athlete who needs to exercise regularly, young minds need constant stimulation as well. Encourage them to read and write, they usually respond positively when asked to be creative. Always be constructive, support them with positive reinforcement. The things you compliment them on they will likely continue to do well in. Ask them to share their homework with you, take an interest in their studies and ask questions. When you get them engaged with their subjects it will make a world of difference. You may personally struggle with advanced math and English, why not ask your kids to teach YOU? If they believe you are sincere, they will work a little harder to understand the subject themselves. Of course you are insanely busy, but between dinner conversation and maybe an additional 30 minutes per night, you can be a seriously good influence on your child’s willingness to learn.
Be mindful of the parental basics. Maintain a firm bedtime (no cellphone!) and a time to wake in the AM. Proper sleep patterns are important as they serve to help your children be on top of their game in classes. Also, be certain that good eating habits are established. It’s necessary for them to maintain energy throughout their day. If it’s a solid routine, like one that consists of breakfast, snack, lunch, snack and dinner, they’ll be healthy, alert and develop disciplined eating habits.
Perhaps the most important and difficult task facing a parent at this time is identifying priorities and having their children agree to them. The kids are inundated by distractions. You need to nestle academics in among the top things they recognize as important. They’ve got sports, video games, social media, gender concerns… it’s difficult for them to be focused. You have had years of the straight and narrow, you can help them. Set a time for homework and stick to it.
Speaking of social media, depending how much access you allow them, it can be the worst influence at times, possibly even dangerous. They’ll lose themselves in their phones for days if you let them. You need to make rules. After all, you’re paying for their online access and it’s an expense. It needs to be respected. No phone during homework, it’s out of sight. You don’t want distractions. Set a phone curfew as well. They’ll survive without texting their friends after bedtime. It’s tricky but you must stay on top of what your kids are doing online. There’s a lot of trouble to be found there and it falls upon the parents (I know, as if you didn’t have enough on your plate) to make sure they’re not getting pulled into any dark stuff.
Every teen goes through the stage of not wanting to talk to us. They’re too cool and we’re square. They know everything, they consider themselves experts in life and there’s nothing we can tell them. It’s a tough time, but it is imperative to maintain a friendly open dialogue with your children. And you need to be clever, if possible. Don’t just ask “how was your day?” You will most certainly get rolled eyes and a mumbled response that screams “leave me alone!” Well, guess what? We are not going to leave you alone. You have every right to ask about their grades, their goals, and even the people they hang out with. Try to make it light and fun, maybe talk about your own daily experiences. Make it surprising perhaps even a little racy. You could talk about a coworker that angered you earlier by using profanity. Gauge what it takes to get their interest and hopefully make them laugh. It’s sad, but you need to outsmart your children from being antisocial, otherwise you could start to lose them.
Check their school work. It’s certainly ok to establish a reward precedent for good grades, if it keeps them on the Principal’s List, why not? But if they’re slipping, you need to step in with immediate action. I know what it’s like not to be able to assist on homework – I never learned algebra. But I don’t let shame get in the way of doing what’s right for my kids, if they are struggling with a subject, I make arrangements for a tutor a.s.a.p. Grades must be the priority. Even if they don’t go to college, the discipline they learn and success they experience will be invaluable later in life.
Kids are our responsibility. You can’t control life, but you can limit their chances for failure as much as possible. Be a constant positive presence; shake off any negativity they throw at you. You need to overcome it, if they are going to. You need to be strict when it’s necessary. There are too many ways for our kids to fall down a harmful path.
Be involved and you’ll get through this school year successfully, tackling the future one day at a time!