Get Psyched Up for Back-to-School

Get Psyched Up for Back-to-School

Okay, parents, be honest. Which response sounds more like you?
Hooray! The kids are going back to school! 
*groan* The kids are going back to school.  *sigh* Here we go again…

When you have a highly-gifted or profoundly-gifted child and/or a twice-exceptional [aka 2e] child, the start of a new school year is often accompanied by feelings of apprehension and questions: Will my child get along with her teachers? * Do the teachers have any experience with kids like mine? * How can I tell the teachers what they need to know about my child without annoying or insulting them? * What are the best ways to help my child have a good balance of school, family, and personal time? * How am I going to manage all of my own stuff AND stay on top of what the kids need?

These are 5 of my favorite tips to make the beginning (and the remainder!) of the school year go more smoothly for both parents & kids:

  1. Practice good sleep hygiene.

Sleep is the foundation of health–mental, physical, and emotional. Good sleep hygiene includes such practices as keeping regular bedtimes and waking times every day; stopping use of screens (phone, tablet, computer, television) at least one hour before bedtime – and keeping screens out of sleeping rooms altogether; having a soothing routine to wind down in the 30 minutes just before bedtime; avoiding heavy meals, caffeine, and/or alcohol in the few hours leading up to bedtime; and modifying the sleeping environment for comfort (e.g., degrees of darkness, temperature, quietness), if necessary.

  1. Cultivate a positive relationship with your child(ren)’s teachers.

Make it a point to meet the teachers and express your appreciation for their efforts. You want to make it clear to the teachers that you consider their relationship with your child important, and that their work and yours is a collaboration on behalf of your child.

  1. Give teachers a “heads up” about what your child needs to be successful at school.

Some teachers will say that they “don’t like to be influenced,” that they want to be able to see for themselves what’s what, and they may be resistant to hearing from you at the beginning of school.
However, they may not know what they don’t know, and this is your child’s education and well-being we’re talking about. It’s not about humoring a teacher’s wish to be able to “guess correctly.”

Provide your child(ren)’s teachers with some resources that they may find useful in working with your kids. In the spirit of collaboration, offer short, easy-to-consume resources such as an article or video related to your particular concerns. You can recommend books, but know that teachers have precious little time to read, and the book is probably not going to get read (if at all) until school’s out for the summer!

  1. Plan some simple strategies for dealing with the possibility of school-related problems.

If you have accomplished Tip #2, your task will be much easier! If not, put yourself into as positive a mindset as you possibly can–remember the old adage “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
If academic and/or strategic modifications are needed for your child at school, formal meetings with school personnel may be called for. Many parents find this intimidating unless they are educators, themselves–schools have endless acronyms for everything, there may be specific protocols that need to be followed, and you (and the school staff) may feel you should defer to the professional educators’ expertise in all things. Remember that you are an expert on your particular child.
When attending such a meeting at school, take someone with you. This can be a spouse/partner/other parent of the child, a friend or relative, or a professional such as an educational consultant, gifted advocate, counselor, etc.
Dress for success: dress at least as well as the school personnel with whom you’ll be meeting. This is not the time for yoga pants and a sweatshirt.
Bring what you need to take notes, share any necessary documentation, etc. In the “old days,” I used to advise parents to carry everything to the meeting in a briefcase because it’s efficient and looks professional. The briefcase may be a bit outmoded nowadays, so go for whatever will have the same effect.

  1. Make a real effort to balance your time and your kids’ time.

There are only 24 hours in a given day, and you each need to sleep for several of those (see Tip #1). Your work and your child(ren)’s class time use up another several hours of each day. The time leftover needs to be managed to accommodate meals, chores, errands, study, and leisure. This is where you need to be creative and perhaps modify your own expectations, in order to achieve a good balance of all of these things! And remember, it’s about overall balance, and not necessarily a perfectly-balanced day each and every day. General routines can be extremely helpful, but rigid routines cause too much stress for everyone. Flexibility is the key, both in planning for and in responding to the vagaries of daily life.

Common obstacles to overall balance may include: the “problem” of multipotentiality, habits of procrastination and/or perfectionism, “time-blindness,” a bad case of “The Shoulds,” and a lack of clarity about personal values and priorities.

Bright Ideas for Thriving Through (not merely surviving through!) the Holidays

Bright Ideas for Thriving Through (not merely surviving through!) the Holidays

We must acknowledge that, despite the charms of the traditional Holiday Season, there’s no amount of magic that will make a day longer than 24 hours in length. There are certain obligations that need to be met each day, including getting adequate sleep, nutrition, physical activity, and “down time.”

The Season offers a huge variety of activities on which we are invited to spend our time, our energy, and our money. We can’t possibly do it all! Like it or not, we must choose among these offerings, which may mean letting go of some things we’d really like to do or have. Making choices becomes easier when we make a plan to identify priorities, taking into consideration our personal values and our resources.

For instance, prioritizing according to personal values may take into consideration such factors as the needs of various family members to whom we have responsibility; our spiritual beliefs and practices; our philosophies about topics ranging from child-rearing practices to money management; the meaning attached to holidays and their celebrations, and more.

Prioritizing according to resources must take into account both our assets and limitations. How much TIME is available to us? How much MONEY is available to us? How much PHYSICAL ENERGY and stamina is available to us? How much EMOTIONAL ENERGY is available to us?

Record all of the activities that you must do during this holiday period. Use a planner or calendar so you can see more clearly what activities will take place when, and how much time will be required for them. Include time that will be required for work hours, driving, doctor appointments, ongoing commitments, etc. The time remaining after accounting for your daily, weekly, or monthly obligations is time you have to use at your discretion.

Now make a list of all of the discretionary holiday activities that you have to choose from. Note those that you believe you “have to” do (though you do not really “have to” do anything; you always have a choice! But that’s a discussion for another day, perhaps…) and/or absolutely don’t want to miss. Rate and prioritize these activities according to preference–for example: Level 1: “Can’t Miss It!”; Level 2: “Really Want to Include This, If At All Possible,Level 3: “It’d Be Nice to Do This, If Resources Permit,” and Level 4: “We Won’t Miss This If It Doesn’t Happen.”

For example, maybe your “can’t miss” list includes traveling out of town to spend time with family members, attending your child’s holiday band concert, serving dinner at a homeless shelter, giving gifts to your family members and close friends, sending out cards or a newsletter to distant friends and relatives, and decorating your home. Your Level 2 list might include attending your office holiday party, baking goodies for your child’s classroom party, attending the city’s Christmas parade, helping sort food for your worship community’s food drive, hosting a gathering of friends. Maybe your Level 3 list would include making hand-knitted scarves to give as gifts to each of your child’s teachers, driving across the city to see a great display of lights, attending a Holiday party given by an acquaintance, and going to the hospital to sing Christmas carols for the patients.

After identifying your priorities, determine how you will budget your resources of time, energy, and money. Be realistic about these resources, and live within your means in all areas.

By taking a little time now, before the Holiday Season is fully upon us, you can relax a bit, knowing you have a general plan that will allow you to discard unnecessary stress and enjoy the seasonal activities that you have chosen.