The beginning of a new school year ushers in both relief and stress. I’m happy to have my kids back in the routine school brings. But that also means the ease of summer’s schedule is gone and my plate fills fast with school-year responsibilities. Time is one area where I feel the pinch of being a single mom most.
As one parent doing the job of two, there’s not enough of me to go around. To one degree or another, every mom feels this at the start of a new school year. But you know what, moms? We can have a great school year. We can do more than just survive this year. With my whole heart, I believe we can thrive and help our children thrive as well. Isn’t that what we want? Setting routines and goals can help us and our kids flourish. Let’s walk through this hard transition together with a mom’s guide to a great school year.
1. Set expectations for the kids.
Confession: I often keep everything in my head and tell my kids what I’m thinking on a need-to-know basis. But that creates a disconnect between my expectations and their actions, leaving us all frustrated. This year, let’s give the expectations upfront. I like to do this during a back-to-school outing. We shop for school supplies, hit a favorite lunch spot, and in that relaxed atmosphere, we look forward, at the year. What do class schedules look like? How will we communicate with teachers? What grades are expected? What are the bedtimes and wake times and to-dos before bed and before school?
2. Set up a homework routine.
Routines are your friend. They transfer responsibility to our kids and give our homes a peaceful rhythm. Find a homework routine that works for you. Will your child complete homework during after school care? Will he or she come home to a snack and then start homework? Where will he or she do his or her homework? How will you hold him or her accountable for completing it? My son does most of his homework at our dining room table because I still need to see him working and to be available to help. He has a homework folder, where he stores everything to be turned in the next day.
3. Set school year goals with your kids.
I learned this one from Pam Tebow, mom of athlete Tim Tebow. The school year probably signifies a new start to kids more than New Year’s Day does. Even my kindergartner loved drawing her goals as she saw her big brothers and sister write theirs. Have your kids set academic, extracurricular, and character goals on their own. Talk through their goals and help them adjust. Some areas may need a stretch goal that pushes your children beyond their current capabilities while others need measurable goals of steady progress.
As single moms, it’s easy to feel the gaps in our parenting. Setting character goals for our children helps us focus our parenting and renews our parenting vision to become proactive rather than reactive. Take some time to think about where each of your children needs to grow in character, using this list of character traits. Then choose a couple of character traits for each child. As you parent this school year, look for ways to help your child grow and develop those traits.
5. Set aside perfection for progress.
Last school year was a struggle for one of my children. As I put away books at the end of the year, I couldn’t find anything to celebrate. Until this flashed into my thoughts: celebrate progress, not perfection. That child beamed as I later authentically cheered the areas of great improvement.
Your child won’t be a perfect student. You won’t be the perfect mama. There will be bumps in the best-laid routines and maybe even some unexpected challenges this year. Let yourself and your children off the hook of perfection and celebrate progress this school year.
Let yourself and your children off the hook of perfection and celebrate progress this school year.
What’s one change you could make that most would help you thrive this school year?