It’s time to put a few new things in place:
• Organize a home study space for each child. Make sure each area contains all supplies necessary for your children to be successful. No one needs to get up to look for pencils, rulers, or index cards when they’re in the middle of studying. If the study space is in a common home area, have a container that holds all materials so a mess never needs to be left behind.
• Establish guidelines for the home atmosphere during homework time; this is an activity that calls for quiet in the house. Television, music, phone and other such items offer disruptions rather than acting as study enhancements. Maybe the kids can make some “Quiet Zone” signs to help with the process.
• A bedtime should be established and maintained for each person. Sleep is essential for a brain to function properly and well, no matter the age.
• Bedtime is a good opportunity to recharge any technology belonging to the kids. Locate the charging station in the parents’ room so children are not tempted to use their technology into the wee hours, disrupting their much needed sleep.
• What is the plan for extracurriculars? Make sure you are clear on why your children are participating in each activity and ask yourself if the activity is meeting that goal. Over-scheduling will not help your child be a better student, be more popular, or secure a better future.
• Establish a plan for family meetings. These should be scheduled every 2-3 weeks; they are a time to review any family concerns, problem solve issues, and share successes. Plus, family meetings re-enforce the fact that each person plays an important role in the family unit.
• Have each person set goals for the up-coming year. Goals should be realistic and achievable. Each person can also write an action plan, 2-5 steps that will work toward achieving each the goals. Goals can be aimed toward academics, service, athletics, or anything else that is important to that individual.
One last area should also be considered. Dr Kenneth Ginsburg, author of Building Resilience in Children and Teens, has stated that every person should have some type of contemplative practice as a part of their daily activity. Dr. Sandra Chapman, founder of Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth, agrees with Dr Ginsburg when she discusses The Power of None, another reference to the benefit of having complete downtime. This is not the same as watching something on television, even if you consider it to be mindless, flipping through posts on Facebook or Instagram, looking through magazines, or even surfing the internet without a goal in mind. Yoga, tai chi, a walk in the park, or meditation all qualify as possible practices, and I’m certain other practices could also be added to the list. These activities allow each person the opportunity to slow down, recognize personal feelings and thoughts, and get more in touch with who they really are and what matters most to them. Some research has even shown that participating in contemplative practices can result in an increase of empathy for self and others, improved focus, and a decrease in anxiety or emotional reactivity.
You now have the outline of a plan for the school year. How you fill in that outline can be completely up to you and your family. Just remember, leading a stress-filled, sleep-deprived, over-scheduled life will not get you what you most want in life, neither for yourself nor for your children. And whether that something you hold most dear is happiness, or something else, make sure you are working toward what matters most.
(Note:This is a modified version of an article that appeared in the August issue of the TJP.)