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3 Steps to help your kids (and you!) finish the second half of the school year strong

SCHOOL
Wavebreakmedia - Shutterstock
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The second half of the school year is an opportunity to do things better. Here are 3 steps to take advantage of it.

It’s official: the holidays are over. Well, maybe not liturgically, but with work and school schedules back in full swing, most people’s Christmas trees are gone, lights are packed away, decorations are back in the attic, and that festive holiday cheer has been chased away by backpacks, school books, and lunchboxes. Ready or not, the second half of the school year is here.

Some of us parents can get right back into the swing of school with no problem. Sure, you might have to buy a new pair of shoes for your kid who grew 3 inches since December, but everything else falls into place like a well-oiled machine. But for some of us (*cough*me*cough*), back-to-school is almost shockingly difficult. I mean, it’s not like the second half of the school year is a surprise, and it was only a few weeks ago that we had this school thing down. Yet, in the interim, everyone seems to have forgotten how to do the simplest of school-related tasks — like bringing a backpack to school, for example. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you’re on, there are a few simple things you can do this week to help your kids (and yourself) finish the second half of this school year strong.

1
Take inventory

For most kids, school supplies never last from August till May. Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Easter, someone’s going to need something … and it’s usually a vital item that must be replaced ASAP. Spare your future self midnight Walmart runs by taking stock this weekend — after the first week back. It sounds counterintuitive, but that first week back gives your kids the chance to remember that their binder broke on December 20, or that their shoelaces started fraying after Thanksgiving and are nothing but strings now. Once they’ve had the chance to use their school stuff for a few days, they can tell you what they need, and you can either replace things or start getting backups ready.

2
Set your calendar

This week is one of the most stressful for parents, largely because of the sheer information overwhelm. Between the emails pouring in from teachers and the 10,000 crumpled papers fished out of the bottoms of backpacks, it’s basically impossible to keep up with communication this week — so don’t even try. No, seriously, do not even attempt to read the crumpled notes or sift through all the emails titled, “IMPORTANT DATES!!” Take those papers and put them all in a drawer, folder, or stack on the kitchen counter, then put a paperweight on top so no one throws them away. Leave the emails unopened so you can clearly see that they are, in fact, unread. Then take an hour on Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon, pull your calendar out, and go through each email and letter thoroughly. Don’t just make a note on February 12 that says, “Valentine’s treats” — by the time February 12 rolls around, it will be too late. Instead, put “get Valentine’s treats for 4th grade and put in Susie’s backpack” on February 11, so on February 12 Susie can just take those treats to school for you. It might seem like a daunting process, but doing this now can literally make the difference between a frazzled, stressful spring and … well, just a stressful spring.

3
Do some debriefing

Once you have the practical stuff out of the way, you’ll have the mental clarity to focus on what really matters: the actual rest of the school year. Talk with each of your kids one-on-one about the first half. Look over their grades, homework, behavior reports, and ask them what they were proud of and what they’d like to improve. Help them think of practical ways to accomplish it — things like organizational habits, study skills, or even just taking advantage of tutorial periods — and then ask them to write down their goals and their strategies. Try to keep yourself out of it as much as possible and let your kids lead the way, which will give them a sense of ownership and control in their education. Put their lists on the fridge or tack them to the wall by the breakfast table so your kids can see them every day, and so you can review their progress together over the next few months.

Even though it’s overwhelming, the second half of the school year is an enormous opportunity for you and your kids. Talking about it with them and encouraging them to reflect on the year past and make new goals for year to come is a fantastic way to help your kids develop a sense of pride in their work and the confidence necessary to accomplish great things — both at school and at home.

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