Today I’m sharing 4 Back To School Parenting Tips that help my family function successfully.
It’s nothing short of a miracle that we have successfully launched a sophomore, junior and college freshman back into school. Life gets real when I have to fill out this ginormous life-size calendar. I bought it on amazon. It's seriously 3'x4′!
Seriously, I could put it all in my phone but there isn’t enough room to see all of the madness. I’m a big picture kind of girl. I also must keep the taxi gassed. Side note: I really need to teach these boys how to drive but my oldest son who is of driving age but without a license cannot manage to drive a lawnmower, which has me loving on a bottle of wine just thinking about it.
It’s no secret that my amazing family puts the fun in dysFUNctional. We’ve are running wild with acronyms for miles over here. ADD, ADHD, ODD, OMG (just kidding on that one) and a few learning disabilities to boot. That doesn’t keep us from pushing forward though. Because of our story, I get the opportunity to share my heart with moms often. Adoption is challenging. Raising children with a dozen labels attached to them is challenging. But, the only letters that truly matter are M.I.N.E. They are mine. Love is supposed to be unconditional. Granted some of us are stretched a little thinner with that statement but in order to function in life, we must accept it. All of it. Whatever they are and whatever they will be is wrapped completely around my ability to love them unconditionally and support them as I launch them into each season of their lives.
My kids are 16, 17, and 19 and they still have a bedtime. It has taken them a long time to understand that I am not a mean mom by keeping this a standard in our house. They realize that if they don’t get enough sleep, they are beasts in the morning, which gets them in trouble and we start a ridiculous cycle. So, my college age daughter is usually in bed by 10:30 (she is the super beast) and my boys are in bed at 9:00 p.m. I know, this is mind blowing for 16 and 17 year olds. It’s my job as their super mom to make sure they take care of themselves. History has proved that if they don’t get a sold eight hours, we are all doomed. DOOMED.
We also have a set morning routine so everyone lives to see each day. Ha. My middle child gets up at 6:00 a.m. He gets up, has his coffee and breakfast and is out the door at 6:30. He chooses to ride the bus, which is weird to me but whatever. Next, it’s the young one. He rises at 7:00 a.m. Cue moaning and groaning and hating life. I calmly try and pep him up and make sure he has had his medicine before the oldest gets up because she can be a super beast too. So, we stagger and it works for us. I just can’t, can’t, do screaming in the morning. This is the only way to ensure that doesn’t happen. We have a similar night routine too. Some days we are off because of extracurricular activities (and we always pay for it the next morning) but most days we function great.
It doesn’t matter what age your children are, they need structure. I also have parental controls on everyone’s phones. Thank you AT&!! They shut off at 9:00 p.m., talk, text, data…all of it. Let’s be honest, kids are on their phones all hours of the night. In order for my kids to be successful, they must have sleep. So, I take away the dangling carrot. And, when they want to talk back and lose their minds for more than five minutes, you better believe I will get on my app and shut it all down or even worse, change the wifi or Netflix password. Yes, I can be “that mom” all day long if it means my kids are successful! Parents, YOU are in control here. Set the boundaries you and your kids need. By all means, make them go to bed at 8:30 just so you can pee without someone talking to you outside the door.
This is super hard when you feel like you are chasing your tail, hence the life-size calendar. Figure out what method is going to work for you and get after it. Check your kids’ school website for forms due and upcoming activities. I’m sure that this is not new information but children are the WORST at giving parents information we need to know. Everyone in my house knows what we all have each day so we can have realistic expectations. Dishes? Not today! Everyone is everywhere but tomorrow looks promising!
PICK YOUR BATTLES
This is super important when loving children who function outside of the box. You cannot engage in a power struggle every day. It’s exhausting. Give your child two choices and let them pick. Prevent stressful situations. Ask them for suggestions before you go grocery shopping so you know that you have breakfast items they will eat. I hate nothing more than a life size tantrum over what freaking cereal needs to be eaten in the morning. For those of you doing the cereal cringe, we also have eggs, fruit, etc. The last thing any kid needs is a huge sugar rush before school.
Anyway, don’t engage a power struggle. Most of the time, they already feel it’s us against them. I have to tell my kids’ teachers this every year. If you engage in a power struggle, you will lose them. That’s hard for those of us who need to be in control, but when kids feel out of control, the last thing they are going to do is relinquish the little bit they feel they have. This doesn’t mean be a push over. It’s merely a reflection…is it really necessary to spend thirty minutes arguing over what they wear every day? Save yourself the stress and just go with it. Remember you are on the same team.
This is the MOST important tip I’ll share. You know your kids inside and out, their favorites and their flaws. Guess what, you may be the only one. You are your child’s biggest supporter and most important advocate. I always start the school year emailing my children’s teachers. I introduce myself, tell them important information about my kid (as in, they need to sit near you and not that their favorite color is blue, ha), make sure they know about their IEP and then end with something like this, “It takes a village to raise a child and I am thankful you are part of our village. I know my kid may be hard some days but I’m going to ask you to love them through it and know you are never in this alone. My kid is smart and funny and I know you will get along great. I am here to support you and make your job easier. We both want my kid to be successful. I am going to pray you through this year!” I’m telling you, a teacher that feels supported will move heaven and Earth for every kid because it’s empowering to know you are not alone! Sometimes when we are in the trenches (because we go through seasons of strife), I email them a Starbucks gift card to grab something on the way home because I need them to go home, relax, reclaim their joy and come back tomorrow.
Back to school can be very stressful but also so fun. New friendships, teachers, experiences are all in the works. I’m not going to lie, I also love that my kids go back to a normal bedtime and we have more structure. My kids just do better with structure. I love that they are all involved in something that makes them happy. My college freshman works part time as a two-year-old teacher at a local daycare. My HS junior loves band and talks about it All. The. Time. You better believe I will be there to see him every Friday night. My HS sophomore is a medic for athletics. He is my “somewhat on the spectrum” baby and hated school until he found a job that gave his life purpose. He was an aquatic engineer (aka waterboy, but that was the name they gave him and I loved it) in middle school and advanced to trainer in high school. This “job” breathes life into my boy every single day. He literally coaches in his sleep. And yes, we have season tickets for football so we can watch our trainer and band marcher because we celebrate them where they are!
Listen, all of my kids have struggles in life but I remind myself that I am not raising victims, I am raising survivors. It was hard for me to realize that they may never be honor roll kids, which was hard for me because I always was. They won’t be at the top of their class and that just has to be okay because it’s not about me. I expect their best and that looks different for each of them. They will live happy lives because we support them and love them where they are at. Unconditional love. It’s priceless parenting.
Best of luck this school year!