Starting the School Year Well

Can you believe we’re already into week 2? The new year is already going so quickly. By now our children have had a week’s worth of school and should be settling into a routine.

For many families, the school week is a busy frazzle of running here and there, packing bags, arranging pick ups, all while trying to do normal life.

It can help to reduce the stressful demands of school if we take a moment to think deliberately about ways to set what in our family is called “Auto Pilot Mode”. “Auto Pilot” refers to the consistent boundaries and routines we set for our family that are agreed on beforehand and easily referred to, both by ourself and our children.

Having these boundaries and routines set firmly is a great way to reduce conflict and train our children to be responsible for themselves and their activities. With enough reinforcement and consistency, many children won’t even bother to ask for something outside of the boundaries, once they know we will always refer them back to the agreement (I can’t make the same promise for teenagers!)

I realise that setting and maintaining boundaries and routines is easier said than done. Here are some tips that might help:

 Good boundaries:

  • Are agreed to in advance.
  • Have clear requirements that are consistently applied.
  • Have a logical purpose – it’s hard to keep enforcing a rule that even we don’t see the point of!
  • Are age appropriate – e.g. a Prep child shouldn’t be walking home from school by themselves, but it’s probably ok for a student in Yr 12 who lives around the corner.
  • Are linked to a logical consequence – e.g. they snuck the Ipad into bedroom and stayed up for two hours playing games. They now lose two hours of Ipad time this weekend, given that they’ve already used it.
  • Are loving and fair After a decent trial, it can be helpful to reflect on whether the boundary is achieving what we hoped, or whether there could be a better way. Our children will appreciate a chance to offer feedback, and it can help to negotiate modifications that still allow us to achieve the purpose of the boundary.

Sometimes when we haven’t done as well as we would have liked to previously, it can be hard to try a new strategy. It can help to start off by admitting to our children that we’re still learning, and that means that we want to try something new. Things are going to change, and we want to give them fair warning.

We grow into the parent our children need as they grow. So we need to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves permission to try something new. No family is perfect.