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Winter break is over and we are heading back to school. I’ll be honest and say, I needed winter break as much as my kids did this year. We have been remote learning since August (not including the spring when I put in zero effort because I was convinced, we were going back in the fall…. FACE PALM.). We are a family of 6 with 2 working from home parents, 3 kids remote learning, 1 with an IEP, 2 who can’t read or operate a computer, 1 mischievous ninja preschooler who never got to go to preschool (thanks Covid.) and 2 adorable but needy and wild dogs. LIFE IS CHAOS. While we have situated into a sort of manageable routine, this remote learning life is a serious time and mental commitment… And I hate it. Winter break was this breath of fresh air where I got to ENJOY my kids again. I am a bit of a whiner, but I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve complained about my kids driving me crazy for 2 SOLID weeks, it may be a record for me. I love them. Like fiercely LOVE my babies, but… they drive me nuts. And now we are on the brink of returning to remote learning and friends, I. AM. NOT. READY. Ready or not, we are diving in tomorrow and we’ve done a few things to make the transition a bit smoother for all of us.
Whether you are remote or in person, the transition back to school can be a big one. Here are a few tips to help get you through without a showdown.
1. Settle into a bedtime routine again.
While the holidays definitely looked different this year, most of us are off schedule. A good night’s sleep is ESSENTIAL for kids to be able to tackle the day. If we want kids to be able to focus and follow expectations without attitude and flopping themselves on the floor… Sleep is where it starts.
2. Discuss the routine with them ahead of time.
For some of us, schedules have changes since before break, but even if they are the same, 2 weeks is a long time to go without following that schedule. Use a visual schedule if you need to (I HEART visual schedules so I’m totally recommending this for all kids, all ages.). It doesn’t need to be fancy but a schedule of what the day will look like is helpful for kids to anticipate transition, preferred subjects, snacks, breaks etc. For younger kids who can’t read a clock, pictures work great! Or use a number system with a first/ then strategy as you explain it. “First check in on zoom, then Music.” Reviewing the schedule takes away some of the anxiety of back to school. Here is an example of a stay home visual schedule from our stay home day bundle.
3. Healthy snacks ya’ll.
You know back at Christmas dinner when you ate that 3 servings of mashed potatoes, all those apps you snacked on and you rewarded yourself with more than one dessert… Your kids were probably snacking and desserting too. It’s OK, these are unprecedented time, or so I keep hearing, and not everything is perfect all the time. I took time today to cut up fruit in individual bags to put into a basket in the fridge. That basket has fruit, cheese sticks, yogurt etc. There is a similar snack basket in the pantry. Be PREPARED for the I’m hungries about 20x a day while we get back into a routine. It’s coming and prepping healthy snacks, is for your sanity as much as it is for your kids growing bodies. I’ve also seen parents packing lunches for kids just like they were going to school, again eliminating the ‘mom what’s for lunch’ battle. I’m not that on top of things for lunch, but snacks I can manage. Our kids behavior is reflected in the food they eat, so while we can’t be perfect all the time, a good place to start is healthy snacks. The link below on the picture is my inspiration for self serve snacks. She has some great snack ideas too.
4. Organize materials needed for each day.
This is something I NEED to do better at (which is why organization is in BOLD letters on my vision board this year). One thing that has worked well for us, and kudos to my kids teachers for babying me while I try to figure out a system, is paperclipping worksheets together by subject. Each morning I pull out the pages need, open up the math book to the right page and lay out any needed materials. This has helped minimize the paperwork shuffle in the middle of a zoom and allows our kids to become more independent.
5. Try not to over plan for the week.
Obviously, this looks a little different than it did in a pre-Covid world, but this week should be focused on resting our bodies and mind after school hours. Our kids are bound to be exhausted mentally and physically this week, heck, I’ll be exhausted too. Plan for some board games, sensory play or a movie night if you can. Keep things fun and organized, but expect the unexpected. I’m always down for a movie or game night with my crew so this is a win-win for me! Give them a few moments at the end of the day to tell you a story about school. Instead of asking, tell me about your day, be specific, “Who made you laugh today?” “I saw you reading a book with your teacher, those were some big words! What was your favorite part of the story?” When things get challenging, give them space to vent. “You seem pretty upset; it seems like you had a hard day. What was hard about it?” “I watched how hard you were working on those math problems, that must have been exhausting. How can I help you right now?”
6. If it is appropriate for your child, plan a reward at the end of the week.
For younger kids, they may benefit from a more immediate daily reward. This can be discussed during the visual schedule review as a reminder. REALLY important tip: DO NOT USE THIS REWARD AS A CONSEQUENCE. What I mean by that is do not threated to take away the reward for unexpected or challenging behavior, this could reinforce more negative behavior. Instead, focus on the silver lining of each situation. “I saw you turned your camera off during zoom, what happened?” Allow the child to respond, “I can understand why you must have felt overwhelmed, but you did a great job rejoining zoom when you were ready. I can’t wait to celebrate with you Friday.” This is a tough week for our kids, especially our kids who are struggling with challenging behavior. Highlighting the positive behavior rather than focusing on the challenging behavior will reinforce more positive behavior, and that is what we want!
Lastly, give everyone GRACE this week and next maybe too. Our kids, our families, our classes, our village… have been through a lot in the last year making more changes even more challenging. Try to keep a schedule and routine, but be flexible if you are a few minutes behind. Try to pick out clothes the night before to create an easier morning, but be flexible if you start the zoom day in pajamas. I can tell you right now, at least 1 of my kids probably won’t get their teeth brushed before school starts, so when things don’t go as planned, decide if it’s an important showdown, or if you can compromise for today.
When all else fails, head on over to The Mom Spot for a good vent session, you won’t be alone.
PS: Keep checking back here or on FACEBOOK… IEP PARENT ACADEMY is coming soon and you don’t want to miss it!