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Back to School - Our Second New Year: 6 Resolutions to Make This School Year Your Best Yet

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First Day of School!First Day of School!

While summer is filled with long-weekend trips, pools days, summer reading and the thrill of staying up just a little bit later, I can’t help but look ahead at what’s to come in August: new school supplies, getting back in our routine, going to bed earlier, eating healthier.

As a mom of a 10- and 12-year-old, back-to-school feels like my second New Year: a time to wipe the slate clean, to resolve to do and be better, and to start a fresh school year.

And as a parent, this time of year has me thinking about how I am setting my boys up to be successful as students and human beings.

Dixon's first day of 7th grade

My oldest Dixon is HALF WAY to graduation. Which makes me want to breathe into a bag! Crazy to think we only have 6 years total left with him before college.

In more than a decade of parenting, I’ve learned some hard lessons and picked up some helpful tips along the way. While I will continue to make mistakes and will always be learning, I want to share with you six back-to-school resolutions I am making this year for our family:

  1. I will set them up for success. During back-to-school time, success can feel like buying brand new school supplies, having the “it” backpack, or meal prepping Instagram-worthy lunches. In the grand scheme of things, though, backpacks and pretty lunches mean nothing compared to a good night’s sleep, a solid routine, and a lot of grace. In the few weeks leading up to school, we work to get back in their routine of going back to bed at a normal hour, so their bodies are used to that before this startling jump back in. Another way I set them up for success is by limiting their activities in the first few weeks back, allowing them a little more free time than usual. We don’t plan anything the few weekends of back-to-school. None of this, “ let’s get all the kids together since they haven’t seen each other in months.” Our kids are so over programmed and this time of year can lead to easy overwhelm. I like it when my boys feel bored. That’s when we see them use their imagination more. It’s harder to take activities off the calendar once you’ve committed to it. The nights that they have nothing on the schedule are really good for them mentally and allow for an easier transition to the year. Allowing rest doesn’t equal laziness.

    Thackston first day of 4th grade

    It’s Thackston’s last year in the Lower School BGA and will be a year full of adventure and fun! Big traditions at BGA begin this year for him.

  2. I will teach them to advocate for themselves. This was a hard one for me at first, but I’ve vowed not to do everything for my boys. If one of them forgets something at home, they have to accept the consequences. If they forget their basketball shoes, they have to wear their regular tennis shoes they wore to school. I try to teach them how to plan and prepare to avoid these situations. Each night, the boys lay out their clothes for the next day in the same place. And, the same goes for sports preparation. If they have basketball practice after school, they pack their basketball items in the backpack the night before. If we won’t have time to run by the house before baseball, then they have to pack and bring all the needed equipment and clothing. It only takes one or two times of mom and dad not bailing you out, for you to understand that the iPad being charged and in your backpack means that you’ll actually have it for class. As they get older, I am trying to instill in them the responsibility of taking care of yourself. I want them to be the ones to fix their healthy breakfast and pack a snack for after school. And, since I’ve said so many times, “If you wanted a snack, you would have brought it,” my boys now refer to their after school snacks as “emergency snacks!” Part of this education is also teaching my children to advocate for themselves, rather than us advocating for them. Last year, when my oldest was struggling with a concept in class. I encouraged him to speak with his teacher rather than us and helped him find the right way to approach the topic, ask for assistance and secure the clarity he needed to master that section of the curriculum.
  3. I will admit their systems are better than my systems. I am an Enneagram 1 (The Perfectionist), so I have tons of systems for organizing myself. But what I’ve had to learn as a parent is my systems won’t be their systems. What works for me, doesn’t always work for them. As their mom, I have to allow them to find their own process. I can help guide them. For instance, a few years ago, I helped my oldest create a color-coded notebook system for each of his middle school classes. They were super organized (and adorable), but halfway through the year, it still wasn’t working for him. So he changed it and his system worked instantly. A lot of times, their way is better. If I make them do what I want exclusively, then they will never learn what works best for them and will likely end up unsuccessful. Again, this means I have to let go of control too!

    Dixon's Organizational System

    When your son is also an #Enneagram1

  4. I will give them a clean slate regularly. We give a lot of grace in our home. If you have a bad day - a clean slate. If you messed up in some way - clean slate. If you lost your mind and were disrespectful to another family member - clean slate. It’s not just at the beginning of the school year, but all throughout the year. Don’t get me wrong, there has to be authentic remorse and an interest in making change. But extending grace and offering the opportunity for a do over goes a long way in building rapport, trust and an honest relationship with your children. My kids can be punks just like everyone else’s. They mess up, they act out, and they drive me crazy at times (Newsflash: so do I). But, by modeling grace and kindness to them, our hope is that they’ll learn to extend this same mentality to others and, most importantly, to themselves.
  5. I will let go of the guilt and just show up for my kids. We’ve all been there. That pressure we put on ourselves to do all the things at school: be the room mom, bring snacks to practice, go on every field trip, buy the teacher gifts, bake the best cupcakes. You can’t be everything to everyone. As a working mom, I often feel the pressure of, “I am not doing enough at school.” It’s all self-imposed, of course. No one is making me feel bad if I don’t show up or participate in every activity. Since my oldest son was in Kindergarten (he’s headed to 7th grade this year), I have served as a room mom..until last school year. I had this idea in my head that because I was a working mom, I needed to be involved as a room mom so I knew what was going on in the classroom. Last year I dropped that commitment and, instead, volunteered to do one event at school: the teacher appreciation luncheon. I found that rather than begrudgingly sending emails begging other parents to sign up for the Valentine’s Day party, I enjoyed my obligation. I was able to love on our faculty well and spend time getting to know other moms on the committee a little more. And, I still knew what was happening at school regularly. I encourage you to drop the guilt this school year. Instead of worrying about what the other moms will think (gasp!), I should care how my kids feel. How do they feel when I am late to pick them up? How do they feel when I forget something for school? How do they feel when I miss a ballgame? Of course, this happens from time-to-time and I am late to the pick-up line or am traveling for an assembly. But I’ve determined showing up for my kids is way more important to me than showing out to other moms.
  6. I will raise kind, thoughtful human beings. This one is really important to me. Honestly, it’s more important than any of the rest of these resolutions. I will raise good, kind, empathetic kids. They will be inclusive and stand for the underserved. It can be easy to get wrapped up in having the “it” backpack, brand new shoes, activities planned out for every hour of every day, all the perfect binders with all the perfect stickers, the best equipment for baseball - whatever. Don’t worry about making it look good, but instead, worry about making others feel good. I always remind my kids to look for the lonely kids in the lunchroom or the child who is having a hard day. This starts at the beginning of our day. I remind them on the way to school each morning to be kind to those kids and to seek them out and help however they can by being a good friend to them. A few minutes of kindness can change someone’s day drastically.

    My “Noticer”

    My “Noticer,” Thackston, gives words of affirmation as his love language. He’s a charmer, that one. But it’s always in the most kind, true and sincere way. He notices when you need love and he gives it with reckless abandon. Day made because of that dude.

With each school year, I learn new things about my kids and myself. I hope these resolutions help you start the year with a clean slate, feel less pressure to do and be more, and truly enjoy watching your kids grow and succeed this school year. I can’t wait to share what I learn this year and to hear your back-to-school resolutions, too. What are yours?

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