By Roger Brooks and Alex Balbir, Wounded Warrior Project
Kids are amazingly resilient, but military life asks a lot of them. Children in military families move six to nine times before graduating high school, according to the National Board for Certified Counselors. Helping your family get back to a healthy routine at the beginning of a new school year can be a challenge, but it’s essential to your children’s development.
Like any mission in life, back-to-school time requires some planning and precise yet flexible execution to ease you and your family into a good routine. Your children’s activities, eating schedule, and bed time are just some of the things that need to be adjusted.
“Both of my kids have special needs, so establishing a new routine is key for us,” said Paula Pflieger, military spouse and mother of two children, ages 3 and 8. “Getting used to the new class, teachers, classmates, and bus drivers takes a toll on us at the beginning of the year. Getting to bed and getting up at set times is a hard adjustment after a free-for-all summer.”
Paula said the life-long lesson for her kids is embracing change. “Different doesn't mean bad – it just means there needs to be an adjustment.”
1. Adjust eating times. Establish meal times and stick with them. Adjusting meal times can help with bed times, too. If you eat early, it’s easier to get to bed early. Remember to set a good example.
2. Choose healthy snacks. Try to eat and offer snacks that don’t come in a packet. Prepackaged foods might look convenient but usually have low nutritional value. Trade prepackaged snacks for fresh fruit, especially citrus, which contains vitamin C and will boost immune systems.
3. Get the backpack ready. Help your children double check that all materials are ready the night before. Make sure they have what they need and save them (and you) the stress.
4. Reacquaint your kids with the calendar schedule. Post a family calendar to track everyone’s activities. Let each child choose their favorite calendar or phone app to keep track of their own schedule and own it. Start transitioning children early so they can adjust as they switch from summer to school calendars.
5. Set a homework alarm each day. Use an alarm or timer to signal the beginning and end of homework time. Let your student take a break after a period of sitting down to work. Model good behavior by doing your own work/projects while your kids do homework. It may be helpful to have a specific location in the house assigned for homework.
6. Touch base with teachers. Talk with your students’ teachers early on to troubleshoot any issues your kids might have. If you’ve recently relocated or there have been changes in your child’s life, let the teachers know. Teachers can help facilitate transitions and new friendships.
7. Prevent colds. Pay special attention to prevention during the first few days of school. In addition to helping them keep their immune systems strong with good nutrition, teach them to wash their hands often, and always before eating. It may be helpful to introduce antibacterial wipes or gels at strategic and convenient locations around the house.
8. Get a check-up. It’s good to visit your family doctor at the beginning of the school year to do an annual check-up for your children. You can take advantage of this time to have your family doctor emphasize the importance of healthy eating and exercising.
9. Go beyond checking a box. The sports physical exam is an opportunity to have your children evaluated by your family doctor, in addition to having school forms filled out to show your child is able to participate in sports.
10. Get to know other parents. Volunteer to do a small task in your child’s homeroom, and use the opportunity to meet other parents. The interaction might result in playdates for young children and carpool buddies for older kids.
11. When in doubt, talk, talk, and then talk some more. Be sure to communicate with your children. Let them express their feelings about anxiety or excitement as they return to school. Share what you thought and how you adjusted at their age. Communication is vital to developing trust between you and your child that will allow them to feel safe to come to you regardless of the topic.
12. Teach relaxation. Life is filled with events that create anxiety. Provide your children with tools to deal with those stressful events. Help them understand those events are temporary. There are countless resources online with techniques and recommendations to ensure they do not feel dismissed.
We understand other obligations can overlap with a child’s schedule, but these ideas can be adjusted and individualized to fit your family structure and needs.
If you’re new to a neighborhood and school, take the time to talk with your kids about their concerns as they go about getting acquainted. You might be surprised how much they share, and what things they’re aware of that you haven’t noticed yet.
If you’re having a tough time adjusting to a new place or a new lifestyle, find the right support for you so that you can be fully present for your children. Remember, put the oxygen mask on yourself first.
Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) hosts military families for back-to-school readiness, including workshops and school supply donations, thanks to support from generous donors. Registered warriors and their families can participate in back-to-school activities throughout the nation.
WWP has been connecting, serving, and empowering wounded warriors for 15 years. To learn more, visit https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/programs/family-support.
Contact: Rob Louis – Public Relations, email@example.com, 904.627.0432
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers – helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more: https://newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org.