Summer is winding down and around the corner is the start of a new school year. The stress of the school routine, homework, sports, and other activities is about to start, but here are some simple things to help make the most of it. Our oldest is 11 and our youngest is 6 and I have learned a few things (often the hard way); so, I hope sharing a few tips can make the transition back to school a bit easier for your household!
Get involved! Take time to get to know the teacher and the classroom. Teachers love to see involved dads.
Be the disciplinarian. Kids actually thrive on routine, so set one up that works for your family and stick with it. Set aside time for school work and play time each day. A regular bedtime is key—kids need sleep and it’s better for everyone to go to bed at the same time nightly.
Eat healthy. I enjoy a good beer or nice glass of bourbon and a burger and fries, but as we men get older, that gut can get bigger if we don’t keep it in check. So balance the splurges with plenty of fruits and vegetables, too. Trust me; I lost 20 pounds over the last couple years just by doing this.
Exercise. My wife and I both work out regularly and participate in a few 5K races each year and the kids definitely notice; my 11 year old already says she wants to run and will turn down unhealthy food because she knows it will make her tired later in the day. Kids notice what we do, so be mindful and model positive, healthy habits.
Plan trips in advance. My sister’s family sets camping trips a year ahead of time so they ensure full use of their camper 5-6 times each year, and it works. Do the same with your family; schedule a few trips NOW that you can look forward to when you’re bogged down during the school week. Perhaps plan to visit some picturesque towns in northern Michigan like Boyne Mountain for a winter ski trip or tour the Lake Erie islands in the spring. Indianapolis has a great children’s museum to check out or head down I-75 to check out the sights of Cincinnati. There’s a lot to do, as well, that’s close to home.
Balance time with your kids during the school year. I know it’s a challenge but it needs to be done. For example, I make it a point to drive them to school whenever possible and have small conversations about whatever they want. It’s their time to talk about what’s been going on with the other kids and talk candidly about how they are feeling in general. My wife and I also go to every effort to have a family dinner at least 3-4 nights/week. It’s tough with all of our schedules, but this time is crucial for connecting with your kids and making sure they know you are genuinely interested in their lives.
Talk during the chaos. We are all busy, but it’s often the small side conversations that matter the most. I’ve had some of the most meaningful conversations with my kids during bed time. This is often when they get very honest about what’s happening in their lives that they don’t bring up during any other time. So try this if you haven’t already, and don’t rush it. Who cares about that TV show that’s starting in 5 minutes, or that email you forgot to send earlier. This is a great time to bond with them so take advantage of it!
Schedule time with your significant other. As I get older, I see more and more people go through the big D and I really think at least half of those could have been avoided with better communication and just spending one-on-one time without the kids. So take your children to the grandparents’ house, aunts/uncles, even friends for the night and schedule a little getaway. And while a weekend away is great, even just regular date nights (at home or out on the town) are great for staying connected during this busy season of life.
Have fun! Life is short and these kids are only young once.