Last week browsing in a bookstore it was made evident to me that it’s back to school time full-swing and the buckets of school goodies are bigger, better, more varied, more sophisticated and cuter than ever. As a mother I instantly started feeling the angst that I imagine many parents feel passing the back to school aisles. Did I buy my kid enough when he was that age? How much is enough? How much is too much? Was is OK to recycle the previous year’s over-abundant supplies? Which brand is the brand most kids have and want and prefer? Can I go wrong? Can I go right? Did I do the best I could with my kid? Luckily I stopped this unconstructive train of thoughts in its tracks. The best a parent can do at back to school time and beyond in the school year is far from being defined by the purchases of state-of-the art school bags and stationary. Here are some reminders of how you can best equip your children for their first weeks back at school and beyond.
Remind your kids to be kind to other kids
Kids are insecure enough about starting a new school year and making new friends. What if every parent made everyone’s lives easier by preventing any meanness or bully behavior simply through gentle reminders to their children to be kind and inclusive and proper with everyone. Many schools these days pride themselves on their culture of kindness. Let the gentleness, kindness, good manners and friendly behaviours begin at home.
Provide your kids with unconditional love
Kids will be better equipped to be kind and gentle with others and with themselves if they are getting the love they need at home. Please think twice before putting conditions on your love and acceptance be they contingent on weight, appearance, grades, social success, extracurricular success etc. Provide your kids with an attentive, listening, caring ear at all times and ensure they are able and willing to come to you with any and all troubles, questions and concerns without feeling fear. Disciplining kids can be done in a manner that kids engage with and understand not through psychological intimidation and abuse.
Provide your kids with a safe home
Home should be a place where kids feel comfortable, safe and at ease to study, play, rest, eat, grow, express themselves and be themselves. It doesn’t take much to create a lovely sanctuary of a home which kids feel is their castle. A clean, tidy home with reliable meal times where a child has their privacy and room to express their personal tastes can do wonders for a child’s happiness and self-esteem. Don’t be afraid to ask your children to clean and tidy with you and to pick out items they love to decorate their room and home.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is to build in them a love of learning and instill a culture of reading in your home. Read to kids when they are young and encourage them to pick up books they enjoy and read regularly.
Maintain a healthy diet at home
School snacks on supermarket shelves these days look as cute as the stationary supplies but be careful not to fall for very unhealthy options. It’s not only weight gain you risk by piling on the wrong foods but a host of other serious health factors including the child’s ability to concentrate or sleep well or relax. Choose meals and snacks that are healthy and fresh and delicious. Luckily there are no shortages of resources online and in bookstores that guide parents in preparing absolutely delicious, wholesome and beautiful snacks and meals for the whole family that feed the eyes, heart and stomach simultaneously. Ensure meal times are happy times and that they are regular so children do not snack on unhealthy items out of hunger in between.
Make sure children get enough physical exercise
Whether it’s a regular stroll or bike ride around the block or regular extracurricular sports its essential your kids are getting the minimum level of physical activity they need. The good news is that there are no shortage of sports most school offer these days and gyms, clubs and academies galore in most areas for special team and individual sports that the schools may not provide. Keep experimenting till you find an activity that your kids love and truly look forward to and don’t worry if they lose interest in many sports along the way.
Nurture hobbies and creativity
School days are beautiful not just for what takes place in the classroom but also for the lovely interests, hobbies and activities children engage in after school which help build character and often differentiate them in their college application. Allow your children to learn art if that’s where their talent lies or music or dancing or encourage further coursework and extracurricular learning tracks if your child expresses a further interest in IT or literature or math or any other subject close to their heart. Don’t be afraid of information overload so long as the children seem happy and content as that is the age children are hungry to learn and experiment and explore and truly absorb and engage with what they learn.
Avoid the pressures and benchmarks
Your kid is unique. Every kid is unique. By all means encourage healthy competition and learning from others but do not encourage your kid to ever feel they have to be just like someone else or allow them to feel inferior to others in any way. Give your kids all the edge you can give them to help them succeed in life but accept that they are unique and allow them their own pace and character and preferences.