Monday, August 15, 2011

Training for the "185 K"

Nobody wakes up one morning after months of inactivity and decides to run in a marathon. Yet herds of parents and children are expecting to just "show up" on the first day of school like an ill advised athlete.  As the commercial replays "its the most wonderful time of the year" I am encouraging my clients to take some time to reflect, plan, and celebrate the transition. As a trained athelete will tell you, it is the mental as well as the physical training that completes the race.

7 Training Tips:

1. Big Picture Analysis:  As the parental "coach" it is a good start to bring out last school year's calendar. Refresh your memory about the pluses and minuses of the family schedule from your perspective.  If you are hoping for more balance this year (who isn't?) pay particular attention to the flow of activities. What parental decisions need to be made? 

2. Develop your strategy:  Gather the group together over chips and salsa/queso to review what worked and what didn't in 2010-2011.  What were mornings like?  How about use of afterschool time?  This is the opportunity to evaluate matters such as scheduling bedtimes, homework, quality time, play dates.

3. Attitude Adjustment:  Watch your language!  Support the value of education with positive, encouraging words. Don't express sarcasm when talking about back to school unless you want your children to be cynical about the process.  Correct negative attitudes from your children when you hear them.  Everyone needs to remember that it is a "clean slate" at the beginning of the year, start with the right frame of mind.

4.Set Expectations:  Research tells us that writing goals is an important step to achieving them.  Many children need help breaking the big goals (getting A's) into smaller steps (Study 30 minutes every night, ask for help when I get stuck, organize my notes). 

5. Shop Wisely:  A dedicated athlete has solid shoes.  Help your child select supplies that will assist them in reaching their goals of organization.  Don't skip this step even if your school purchases supplies for you as a fundraiser, kids still need the tactile experience of new stuff to gear up for the marathon of school. Buy some pencils, spare notebooks, glue, and other materials for their homework space.  P.S. It doesn't hurt to have a new shirt to wear on the first day-most of us feel a lift when we can cut tags and get dressed! How about sparkley shoes to spice up the school uniform?

6.Start Training ASAP:  Take all the data you collected in the mental preparation of steps 1-5 and then "walk the walk."  Initiate earlier bedtime and wake up while still allowing for summer fun.  If your kids have taken a break from reading, make story time aloud or quiet reading their pre-school homework.  Do a dry run (or two) to school to play on the playground or travel the halls to see teachers before the first day.  These short sprints go a long way to ease first day jitters and separation anxiety (for all of you!).

7. Celebrate!:  Families have shared their back to school traditions with me over the years. If you already have a back to school tradition then keep doing it- no matter how old your children are!  If not,  Find one that resonates and stick with it. Here are some of my favorite ideas from clients:
  • Pancakes and scrambled eggs (day one, not EVERY day!)
  • Photo at the front door (bus stop,school,etc)
  • Make a video of "What's in your backpack?"
  • Breakfast picnic in the car.
How do you prepare for Back 2 School?


  1. Great advice! I wish I'd read this Monday.

  2. Hello,
    I have a quick question for you about your site. If you could please get back to me as soon as possible I would greatly appreciate it. Have a great day!

    Dan Gilbert
    Communications Coordinator
    Primrose Schools