Ready or not, it’s that time again. Your kids are trying on fall clothes, cleaning out backpacks from last year (Ewww, those moldy cookies!!), and shopping for school supplies. Another exciting year of growth and development on the horizon for your children. Here are 5 sure ways to make this is a year of growth and development for you, as well.

Hold a weekly calendar meeting

Each new year of school brings more complicated choreography to your kids’ schedules – and therefore to your schedule as well. Every Sunday night, sit down with your kids and enter every commitment and event of their upcoming week into your personal calendar. There are 3 important reasons to do this: a) you should always know where your kids are; b) you have a head start on dinner conversation if you know what your kids have been up to all day; and, c) you may get a pleasant surprise – a meeting of yours is canceled in time for you to make the second half of their basketball game. But you’ll only know about the game if it’s in your calendar.

Help with homework

Plan to be involved with your kids’ homework every night. When they’re in grade school, actually sit with them for part of the time they’re doing their work – not to catch every math mistake, but to make sure they get the big picture of what they’re doing. In middle school, just look over their completed work regularly for overall quality. Show them you are happy to see them doing such a nice job. Your pride in their work will become their pride in their own work. By high school, it’s enough to just ask each night if they’ve finished their homework, and occasionally review teacher’s comments on the work that gets handed back. And of course, at any age, if your kids ask for help, do your best to guide them without doing their homework for them. Remember, you’ve already learned “times tables,” now it’s their turn.

Manage extra-curricular activities

Beware “potpourri parenting” – soccer Mondays, violin Tuesdays, karate Wednesdays, etc. Kids’ options for extra-curricular activities are limitless, and you may be tempted to enroll your kids in everything, thinking you’re “enriching” them.  As long as your kids are enjoying these activities, and you’re not missing chances to spend more time with your kids because of their busy days, there’s nothing wrong with many and varied experiences for school-age kids. But when programming begins to replace parenting, or your kids are showing “enrichment fatigue,” back off. Kids’ time with you is almost always more enriching than any extra-curricular activity; and the time you have with your young kids is fleeting. Don’t give it all away by over-programming them.

Volunteer at school

Every school is underfunded and shorthanded. Your kids’ school can use your help and being there for part of a school day or after-school activity can be a meaningful experience for you. Depending on your kids’ ages and their level of pride (or embarrassment) in seeing you at school, there are many options: room parent, teacher’s aide, hall monitor, coach’s assistant, team parent, crossing guard, PTA, office volunteer, and field trip driver to name a few. Regularly spending part of a day at your kids’ school gives you an up-close look at what your kids see—their teachers and friends, hallway dynamics, and locker lore. More good dinner conversation!

Drive carpool

Whether driving back and forth to school, after-school activities, or field trips, you learn a lot about your kids by driving carpool. Mysteriously, the carpool driver becomes practically invisible to the passengers whenever it’s more than just your own kids in the car. This gives you an invaluable “fly on the dashboard” opportunity to eavesdrop on your kids social interactions, catch up on 3rd grade gossip, and hear about homework without even asking.

The school years won’t seem to pass as quickly if you become involved in your kids’ school lives. Have a wonderful fall semester!


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