What is back to school success?
Back to school is something we typically look forward to. Back to school success when I was a kid was dependent upon the school clothes I bought and which of my friends were in my classes. As a parent, back to school is supposed to signal a return to routines and behaviors that had gotten very lax over the summer and the ability to focus on work or other adult activities while the kids are in school.
Back to school has always been something we could count on. We knew when it was coming and how it would work. This year many kids are doing full- or part-time virtual school, which creates different needs than in-person. We may not need to shop for new pants, or a new backpack. We do need to make sure there is always enough food in the house for lunch (and someone to make it). In-person school may invite us to invest in a set of 5 (one for each day) different, cool masks. The unprecedented back to school experience we’re faced with this year has created apprehension, anxiety, disappointment, and surprise. And we know that how we started the school year is possibly not how it will continue.
Focus on what you can control for back to school success
This is one of those times where you need to focus on what you can control first and foremost. Then we can consider what we can influence. And you must work hard to let go of what you can’t control, or it will suck up all your energy.
5 Ways you can make back to school successful, no matter how and when it shifts:
- Co-create a shared vision of what you want the school year to be and how you will be as a family (or classroom) during this unprecedented time of uncertainty and change. Imagine what it can be; what you can create. This should be aspirational as well as attainable. Make sure to display your vision where everyone can regularly see it. Also, make sure to revisit it regularly to evaluate how well you’re living your vision. and adjust where needed.
- Start your vision with the words, “We are…” (present tense as if it’s already true).
- Use pictures for younger kids who don’t read well yet.
- Considerations when creating your vision:
- What’s most important to you?
- We are happy as a family/class when….
- We are peaceful as a family/class when….
- Things work well in our home/classroom when….
- The impact we want to have on others and the world is…
- Create agreements that outline the behaviors, attitudes and choices that will help you achieve your vision. Think about agreements related to how you treat each other, family roles, the way you’ll use your space, time related agreements (when certain things happen or don’t, when mom/dad gets alone time, how we manage big emotions, stress, anxiety and support each other).
- Considerations when creating your agreements:
- Behaviors (say and do) that will help us live our vision
- Attitudes that we need to have to live our vision
- Examples of choices that align with our vision
- Considerations when creating your agreements:
- Be sure there is accountability and rewards. Consider what you can put in place to encourage, support, and reinforce your vision and agreements. What kind of behaviors, efforts and progress will you encourage and reward? What do your family members value that you can use as motivation and reward?
- Prepare. Of course, you don’t know what will happen going forward, so you’re preparing for how you will manage your emotions and behaviors when things change unexpectedly. The Connection Zoo® Tardigrade aka Water Bear (Adaptability) and Prep Talk cards are great tools for this kind of preparation.
- Focus on what you and your kids can control.
- Ask your kids to identify what could go well. Ask them to identify what they’re worried won’t go well and create a plan for their worst-case scenarios. This short video talks about planning for things that scare us.
- Help your kids create affirmations they can say to themselves when things aren’t going well.
- Be available and present when they need your support – emotionally and for problem-solving.
- Make conversation about fears and emotions normal and regular. Using Connection Zoo® at dinner or bedtime as a way to connect and create strong emotional bonds is a great way to do this.
- Prioritize self-care. Creating regular self-care practices for yourself and your kids is essential for survival. You must manage your own emotions, stress, and anxiety well in order to also guide and support your kids to do the same. Create self-care routines for your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, including time to connect with each other and for time alone to recharge.
There’s no doubt we will continue face uncharted territory, riddled with challenges. With focus on what you can control, a vision and a plan, you can create a back to school experience that reminds you how strong and resilient you are!
Feel Well, Be Well, Do Well,
Co-Founder, ConnectHuman, maker of Connection Zoo