Just like all transitions, the back-to-school season can stir up many different emotions for kids. With new teachers, new classes, new schedules, and more, it’s no wonder our kids may feel a little stressed out.
While you’re likely well stocked on the notebooks and pencils, a child’s confidence and coping skills might be in short supply right around now. Here Dr. Anne Fishel, a founding member of The Family Dinner Project and author of the forthcoming book Home for Dinner, offers some tips for helping your student get through this adjustment period, and beyond.
Sometimes getting your kids to give you more than a one-word answer about their day can feel like a lost cause. Get the ball rolling by sharing a story from your day, such as something mischievous the dog did or a funny exchange with a co-worker. By offering conversation before asking for it, a child may be more willing to join in. Another idea is to keep a “map” in your head of what you know was part of your child’s day. Then, when you ask questions, they are specific and show that you have been paying attention. For example, “Did you play monkey in the middle at recess like you did yesterday?” Or “You were going to talk about A Separate Peace in class today. How did it go?” Here are more ways to get kids to open up.
Research has shown that kids who know stories about their families are more resilient and have greater self-esteem. What makes family stories so powerful is that they transmit the idea to children that they are part of something bigger than themselves—and their identity enlarges to include the lives of previous generations. So, tell a story about a funny or disastrous first day of school, or a story that took place when you were your child’s age. Or talk about how you chose your child’s name. Are there stories to be told about the food for dinner? And by encouraging your kids to tell stories in return, they are better able to make sense of their worlds, and will have an easier time learning to read.
If you’ve strayed from a regular meal routine during the summer, now is the time to get back on track. There is something very comforting about rituals, which punctuate a world that often feels frenzied and out of control. These semi-choreographed events are as welcome to adults as to children. Your ritual doesn’t have to be every night, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Maybe you start with dinner or breakfast a couple of days a week. If you have picky eaters, you can introduce ‘Try it Tuesdays’ as a ritual, a time when your kids try new foods and vote “yay” or “nay.” Explore our website for other ideas you might want to turn into rituals.
This simple idea, from The Family Breakfast Project, our partnership with Cheerios to make breakfast time easier, more fun and more meaningful, can brighten a child’s day. Write a note for your student’s lunch box as a fun surprise greeting and a way to convey your love and support, even when you’re not there.
This is always good advice, but definitely important to remember during transition periods like the back-to-school time. Take care of yourself in ways that nourish your physical and emotional health. Meet a friend for coffee, take a walk, or borrow a book from the library. Remember, you are a role model for your children. By attending to your own needs, you are better able to attend to theirs.
Tamale Pot Pie is an easy (and delicious) weeknight meal, as well as a great make-ahead item for this busy back-to-school season.
Two Truths and a Tall Tale
Ask everyone at the table to say three things about themselves or their day: two true things and one thing that’s made up. The rest of the table will guess which is the made up story, or the tall tale. Sometimes this game is easier if everyone gets a chance to write down their three things before sharing. See more fun game ideas!
Questions about school that we can all learn something from.
What do you like most about school? (Or what do you imagine you will like most about school?)
If you were a teacher and could teach your students anything at all, what would you teach them?
In the book Wemberly Worried, Wemberly the mouse worries about everything, including school. Do you worry about school? What do you worry about?
How is this year at school different from last year?
Would you rather go to your school, or Hogwarts. Why?
If you were principal of your school, would you change anything? What?
Who is/was your favorite teacher. Why?
Can someone be “educated” if they haven’t gone to school? Explain.
Lenox is proud to support The Family Dinner Project in spreading the word about all of the great benefits that come from spending time together around the table with family and friends.
To enter the Lenox Share Your Table Contest, simply post a photograph or a story that shows how you share time at your table on the Lenox Facebook Page, www.facebook.com/lenox or post a photo to Instagram with #lenoxshareyourtable in the caption.
1 winner will be selected to receive a Lenox dinnerware service for 8 (Value $1600).
US residents only. All entries must be posted by 11:59 PM on 9/30/14.