It’s that time of year again.

Summer has ended and kids are getting back into their routine of attending classes, adjusting to new teachers, and looking ambitiously into the new school year. For parents, there is the endless cycle of lunch-making, early mornings, shuttling, after-school snacks, and communication with teachers.

Going back to school in Central Texas means preparing for an awesome year of learning, meeting new friends, and working hard to achieve great accomplishments.

To start the new school year off right during these first several weeks of the school year, here are some ways to prepare your kids for success:

1) Refine the routine

Kids respond remarkably well to structure. You might find that setting up new guidelines helps your kids thrive. This year, gradually beta test your routines to find the best one.

For instance: Set the expectation for your kids to empty out their lunch box and put away their shoes first thing when they get home. Once you set the expectation, kids will fall into the rhythm and you will avoid the hangry meltdown when you ask your child to do this chore later in the afternoon.

Morning routine hacks: Take some time at night (with a glass of wine, perhaps) to sit down and list the top three stressors in your getting ready routine. Getting dressed? Have your child set out five outfits for themselves on Sunday evening so each day is already laid out. Breakfast? Talk with your children and choose an option that you can (at least partially) make ahead. Leaving for school? Move the routine back five minutes and buy your children a single pair of school shoes that are super easy to put on.

Routines make daily tasks easier for you and your child.

2) Meal prepping = good responsibility

There are so many different approaches to meal prepping for school-aged children. By first grade, students can put together a basic meal for themselves with minimal help. This is a good for a kid's development. 

Consider working together on Sunday evening to make all five lunches at once. This can be a meaningful time to talk about the upcoming week, and the process will make mornings easier when you're in a hurry to get out the door.

Another alternative—which you can check out in this video from Tasty—is to set up various labeled sections of your fridge for main dishes, snacks, fruit, and drinks. This grab-and-go approach can be integrated into the morning routine.

3) Prevent homework woes

Again, a routine is the most helpful way to prevent homework meltdown. Try to keep it simple and communicate the routine to kids:

  • Get home
  • Empty lunch/put away shoes
  • Snack
  • Homework
  • Put homework back in backpack
  • Everything else

By finishing homework (and putting books or materials back in their backpack!) before playtime, screen time, or downtime, you will avoid nighttime angst or early morning homework meltdowns.

You will also learn about possible projects or bigger extracurricular needs (cupcakes, anyone?) earlier in the evening. It’s better for everyone.

4) How to talk to your kids

Kids typically don’t readily offer up information about their school day. Maybe you can get out a word or two about their day, but it’s almost universally difficult to get kids to really open up.

Set a new precedent this year by creating a culture of openness in your home.

Make it clear: not only do you care, but you expect your kids to talk to each other and to you about things like bullying. Kindly encourage kids “We tell each other these things in this family.”

Mix in a lot of supportive, silly hugs and smiles with the conversation to help kids feel safe. Body language communicates a lot to kids.

Remind them: “It’s my job to make sure you’re safe! And I want to do a really good job.” (or for older kids, “My work is to support you and make sure you’re ok.”)

5) Communicate with teachers

Teachers work really hard to help your children day in and day out. Give them some credit, and make it a point to shake their hand and listen to them. Your children will follow your lead. If you emphasize respecting their teachers, children will be more likely to listen and respect their teachers too.

When you go to see a teacher, ask them how you can help reinforce what they’re trying to do in the classroom, and follow-up. They might mention something about your child’s behavior that you haven’t noticed like excessive sleepiness or signs of bullying. Consider teachers as allies in the well-being and development of your child.

6) Minimize screen time issues

Let’s face it: no one seems to know exactly how much screen time is appropriate. The more you clamp down, the more it seems that your kids are drawn to screens. Try not to banish screen time altogether. It may be helpful to distinguish between educational screen time and mindless game/cartoon time and manage the quality of screen time more than the quantity.

Setting time limits can be helpful, but some of the impetus may be on you to proactively suggest a snack, craft, shared board game, or an outside activity after school so your children don’t fall into mindless screen time out of boredom. If you give them an amusing diversion, chances are they will forget about the iPad and join you in the fun!

Fortunately, there are many amazing schools in Austin, San Antonio, and the surrounding areas. If you’re considering relocating, let aJB Goodwin agent help you find a home that is close to a good school district or private school of your choice.

Take care of your family and live well with JB Goodwin.

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