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4 Parenting tips to survive the academic year


Olesia Bilkei - Shutterstock

Colleen Duggan - published on 09/06/16

A self-diagnosed anxious parent on how to stay sane

Over the last few weeks, I spent hours ordering school uniforms, supplies and schoolbooks for my five school-aged children. I nagged at least 556 times to finish summer reading. I selected new book bags with colorful prints, and labeled notebooks, binders and tab dividers. I scoured the house for belts to match shoes and I made three separate trips to office supply stores. I purchased favorite snacks for their first meal at the new lunch table.

But I also lay in bed at night worrying about our children’s academic future.

I worried about whether we made the right decision to enroll our children in a two-day-a-week classical school. When I tired of worrying about that, I worried about whether the kids will enjoy their teachers and their friends. I worried if they will survive academically.

Being a parent is hard.

I read somewhere that the new school year for a parent is an appropriate time to make new resolutions—to tackle those unrealistic goals we force upon ourselves on January 1 after weeks of gluttonous overindulgence. I loved the idea because the necessary preparation involved in the start of a new school year lends itself to parental reflection.

What did I do well last year? Where did I fail? How can I help my children succeed? What should I help my children avoid?

As a self-diagnosed anxious parent, though, sometimes the self-examination gets out of control. So here are four sanity-saving resolutions I implement when I allow my concern for our children’s educational lives to get the better of me.

1. Be at peace with the decision you’ve made. It’s only September. Don’t second-guess or evaluate whatever educational decision you’ve made for your children—whether it is private, public or home education. Sure, God might be calling your family away from the current method of education you’ve adopted, but perhaps that decision isn’t best discerned the first week of school or even during the first month.

I frequently think about switching our mode of education, especially when I’m in the throes of a challenging day, but I don’t spend too much time evaluating that decision in the moment because my current task is clear. Further consideration is warranted, but only at set times when I’m able to think clearly about the pros and cons. Until then, I try to stay the educational course I’ve decided upon.

This approach applies whether you’re homeschooling or sending your kids to school.

Your kid doesn’t like his teacher during the first weeks?

Or maybe the kid who sits next to her is a complete jerk?

That’s OK, wait a bit. These new situations might work themselves out and your child might end up in love with their school situation.

2. Resolve to work with teachers and coaches, not against them. When my kid comes home crying because of an incident in the classroom, it’s tempting to go Mama Bear on the authority figure charged with her care. It’s tempting to think the teacher allowed some kind of vigilante behavior from the other rapscallions sitting next to my precious progeny.

But maybe that isn’t the entire picture?

I’ve found when working with teachers and coaches it is helpful to ask questions to promote dialogue. It’s equally important to listen to the teacher’s point of view instead of simply sharing my own. I also have to remind myself—over and over again, if necessary—the people instructing my children desire to help my children succeed. The way they direct my children might be different than the way I do it, but the adult in charge usually has good intentions.

3. Encourage relationships, not division. A few years ago, my elementary daughter expressed dissatisfaction with female friendships in her class. I spoke to a few of the mothers of the children in the class and realized all the girls felt the same way—excluded from the group and unwanted.

So I had a cookie decorating party and I invited all the girls. They spent the afternoon slathering icing and sprinkles all over food and floor.

After the get-together, my daughter didn’t complain about girl tension for the rest of the year. Sometimes offering opportunities outside of class for kids to get together alleviates divisions.

4. Entrust your children and your academic decisions for them to Mother Mary. Mother Mary is a much better Mother than me. She’s more patient, loving, and kind. She also knows how much I love my kids. When I start to second-guess myself or worry so much about my kids it hurts my heart, I turn to Mother Mary.

She’s got this.

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