School’s In! Five Ways to Make this School Year Your Child’s Best Yet
**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**
A guest column by Michele Kambolis
With back to school season in full gear, parents and kids are filled with both excitement and tension, wondering how they can set themselves up for success. Studies have shown that children who thrive at school have a home life filled with healthy habits, great connection and a commitment to self-awareness. How can you ensure you’re providing thefoundation your child needs to thrive this school year? Follow these five tips and see your child flourish.
Self-care is the new medicine
Whether a child is struggling with difficulty focusing, sleep problems, stress, irritability, or any other roadblock, tools for self-care constitute the most powerful medicine there is. Time to relax, and check in with oneself, not only stabilizes the brain system, making it easier to learn. It contributes to life-long resiliency and happiness. But self-care looks different for everyone,so make a commitment to learn a whole host of self care skills: mindfulnessmeditation, yoga, progressive relaxation, imagery, walking outside, or simply taking a long deep breathe together can all go a long ways towards integrating mind and body, leaving kids (and parents) feeling calm and relaxed. Keeping a healthy sleep schedule and choosing nutritionally loaded foods should be high on your self-care list. Both are immune boosting and help ensure your child’s metabolic system is running effectively.
Homework stress almost always tops the list of pressures children worry about. A parent’s deep sighs, frustrated tones and questions about grades and homework can leave kids feeling overwhelmed. Instead, make this year’s homework time tear-free with a fresh approach. Studies show that kids who agree to a homework contract are more independent and successful. Include the time and place where homework will be done, placing distracting technology aside and add an enjoyable activity once homework is done. Incorporate yourself in the contract, including that you’ll be available without taking over, consistently remain calm and keep the lines of communication open with teachers.
Hold back on giving your child all the answers when they’re struggling with a question. Instead, give them room to explore the possibilities they see – no matter how ineffective or ‘wrong’ these might seem to you. Key to perseverance is seeingthings in a new light; encourage your child to come up with alternativeways to solve a problem or to complete a task in a totally different way. Studies show that the average adult thinks of no more than three or four options in a specific circumstance, while the average child can come up with sixty. Taking time to think outside the box may go far to help your child develop the new insights that make perseverance possible.
Get to know your thinking traps
We’ve all heard the Buddhist quote, “Rule your mind or it will rule you”, but learning to be internally in charge is easier said than done. With committed practice, we can teach something very powerful; we can challenge faulty thoughts rather than accept them as truth. Faulty thinking patterns,like perfectionistic thinking or exaggerated thinking, creates thinking traps that children can get stuck in, fuelling anxiety and unhealthy coping behaviours. The trick, instead, is to learn to notice these patterns, see the signs of negative thinking and stop, before getting snagged in the trap. With self-awareness and practice,children can learn to see their own thinking traps and reframe their thoughts in a positive way, leaving them more empowered when facing challenges.
Make time for play
With busy schedules and the explosion of technology use, many children have lost the essential, brain-supporting work of play – and a child without play is a child who cannot thrive. The latest research demonstrates that imagination and creativity fostered through play are as important as intelligence in predicting how successful a person will be later in life. So make play a priority. Schedule in times for creativity and encourage the offbeat. Conjuring up odd and open-ended questions stimulatesimaginative freethinking and gives kids opportunities to explore a wider range of ideas. Make the outrageous seem possible for your children, keeping in mind that laughter crushes our brain’s stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline.
Five small steps can create large, and happy, results.
Michele Kambolis (MA) is a registered Child and Family Therapist and Parent Educator and a Registered Clinical Counselor dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues. Kambolis writes a popular weekly parenting advice column, “Parent Traps” for The Vancouver Sun and Postmedia Network chain of newspapers. She is also the author of Generation Stressed: Play-Based Tools to Help Your Child OvercomeAnxiety.