By Amanda Stokes
With a new school year upon us, it’s that time where parents find themselves faced with life returning to its busy normal.
Here are some powerful, easy to implement ideas to start the new school year on the same page as a family.
Create a Family Essential Agreement
At the start of every school year, your children probably participate in creating an essential agreement; an agreement arrived at and agreed upon by all the members of the learning community. It’s a way of deciding communally what the requirements are for a class to run effectively, and to ensure that everyone has input into making the classroom a place where they all feel safe and included. I believe that families need an essential agreement too.
Your family most likely already has one, even if it hasn’t actually been written down. Your agreement includes the things you allow and the things you don’t, the standards of behaviour you accept and don’t accept, and your expectations.
The start of the year is the perfect time to create your family’s agreement, one that is negotiated, discussed, and agreed upon by all, and displayed in a shared area as a reminder for all to see.
Choose a night where you know you will all come together as a family, with no distractions or demands on your time, and come up with your family’s essential agreement. Everyone in the family should contribute; everyone has a voice, and everything is up for discussion. Once you’ve come up with your top five or six things, have everyone sign off on it and then display it in a common area where it can be referred back to readily.
Some questions to help you come up with your family’s essential agreement:
- What does a happy home look like?
- How can we maintain a happy family environment?
- What can we do to make each other feel heard?
- How can we help each other feel good about ourselves?
- What behaviours support a positive home?
- How can we become more responsible for our actions?
- What would be reasonable consequences for breaking our agreement?
Don’t forget to include a discussion on technology, if this is an issue in your home. A great starting question would be: “How long do you think is a fair and reasonable amount of time to use devices?”
When we involve our children in important discussions like this, they feel a sense of ownership, and are often more compliant when it comes to the consequences of overstepping because they have been part of the decision-making process. Being part of the discussion does not mean your children are in charge of the final decisions—some things will be non-negotiable—but allowing them to be included in the conversation is an important step towards the development of their growing independence. When things go pear-shaped, as they undoubtedly will, and poor behaviour rears its ugly head, you will have something concrete to refer to and remind them of. A shared agreement is a powerful one.
Create ‘Appreciation posts’ on bedroom doors
This activity is a simple one using post-it-notes. Give each family member their own pack of different coloured post-it-notes, with the instruction that over the course of the day, each person is to stick at least one note of appreciation on the bedroom door of another family member. This is a particularly effective activity for promoting kindness between siblings. A note could be as simple as ‘Thanks for putting my plate in the sink for me’, to ‘Thanks for letting me wear your t-shirt today’.
In life we don’t always show our appreciation of others, so why not start with our families first!
Another activity that can be set up anytime, is an ‘I am jar’
All you need to do for this one is make sure each child has a jar or a box.
Sit together, and help your children come up with a list of positive things about themselves that make them who they are. This list should be a work in progress that’s never finished and always added to.
A few possibilities:
- I am a good listener.
- I am funny.
- I am caring when people are hurt.
- I am creative
Creating this list does a few things
Growing up is undeniably full of ups-and-downs, and as much as we try to build up our children, they will inevitably have times where they don’t feel good about themselves. There will be times when they are filled with self-doubt. Perhaps a friend will make a comment on their work at school, or maybe someone will tell them they’re no-good at something they pride themselves in.
An ‘I am jar’ not only promotes good feelings, but the beauty of it is that they have also come up with all the pieces themselves. Once your child has made a good start on their list, have them decorate a jar or box that will become their special container to fill with their ‘I am’ statements.
When they’re feeling down, or just need a reminder that they’re more important than others’ opinions of them, they can return to their ‘I am jar’ as a reminder of all the things that are special about them.
Sometimes we could all do with reminders like this.
Amanda Stokes is an Educator, Presenter and Author of The Tween Mothers Tool Book available from www.raisingstrongdaughters.com.au
You can also follow Amanda for Parenting support and advice on Instagram @raisingstrongdaughters_, or join her Empowered Mum Squad: 4 Weeks to Up Level Your Parenting Program.