Back to School: Surviving and Thriving

Description

While the busyness of the school year can be a source of pressure for the family, it doesn't have to take a toll on your marriage or on your kids.

Dear Greg,

School is starting again and my husband and I are feeling harried and stressed! How can we find balance so that our marriage and our relationship with our children don’t suffer?

Answer

The beginning of school is a hectic and stressful time for many families. Parents can get super-busy making sure that kids are ready for school and that they are signed up for sports or school activities. Then there is the financial stress that can come with buying school supplies or clothes, paying sports fees, and so on. And as much stress as parents might feel, children can experience even more. For some kids starting back to school is a time to reconnect with friends or get back into a “normal” routine, but for many it is a time of uncertainty and anxiety. Will I make new friends? Will my classes be too tough? Will I fit in?

While the start of the school year can be a source of pressure for many families, it doesn’t have to take a toll on your marriage and kids. The great news is that you can create an atmosphere in which your family can not only face the pressure but thrive.

Start by talking with your kids and find out how they feel about getting back to school. Are they excited? Nervous? Find out what concerns they have and talk about ways to address them. For example, if your child is worried about finding friends, talk about things she should look for in a friend and discuss ways she can be a good friend to others. Discover what your child is looking forward to and build anticipation for those things.

Provide an environment of support for your child at home. One of the best ways to do this is to eat dinner together as a family on a regular basis. Family meal times can nourish mind and spirit as well as body, provided that you make healthy communication a priority. One tool many parents use to encourage dinner conversation is the “high and low” game: going around the table, each person shares the high point and low point of their day. Other things you can do to provide support and encouragement for kids is to set and discuss reasonable expectations for performance in school, offer help with homework, and limit screen time (TV, movies and Internet).

As far as your marriage is concerned, it can be easy for mom and dad to spend so much time and energy taking care of the kids’ needs that they end up neglecting each other. Don’t fall into that trap! Carve out at least 15 to 20 minutes each day to talk, preferably not just about the bills or superficial things. Make date nights a priority. These don’t have to be fancy or expensive—perhaps a cup of coffee together or some time alone when the kids are in bed—just something to allow you and your spouse to devote time to each other without distraction. Visit datenightchallenge.com for some great date ideas.

Communicating with your spouse in healthy ways requires you to be intentional, but you’ll find that your relationship will be strengthened as a result. And when you and your husband are on the same page, the entire family benefits.

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