It’s that time of year again. Buying notebooks, binders and pens, packing lunches, organising pick-ups and drop-offs and everything else that goes along with making sure your child is ready for the school year to begin. Before things get too chaotic or busy, we’ve decided to write out our top 4 questions for you to discuss with your child to make sure the whole family is ready and excited about the new academic year.
1) What are you most excited about this year?
2) What are you most nervous about at school?
3) What’s the best way for us (your parents) to support you?
4) What would you like the family to do this year for fun?
These questions are a few ideas to get you and your family started. Once the year really goes into full swing, it’s easy for everyone to get distracted and have more trouble communicating. We’d highly recommend setting up a weekly “family meeting” to discuss the positive and negative things that have happened to everyone in the family that week.
These discussions may feel weird at the beginning, but can prove to be very effective for the entire family’s well-being. It’s a great way to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, to encourage your children to formulate what’s bothering or helping them, and to facilitate family understanding and bonding.
An example of how to proceed could be to start off with everyone going around the table and saying what they appreciate about each member of the family. Then once everyone has gone around, the next important step would to address some of the challenges or disagreements that have surfaced during the week. Either between family members or at school and work. And finally, the last part can be to come up with one fun family activity to do that weekend. For example, go get an ice cream, head to the movies, explore a new area etc. This is a basic layout, but if you’re looking for more ideas, check out 10 Tips for Holding a Family Meeting by Psychology Today. Also, Creating a Positive Family Culture: How to Plan and Lead a Weekly Family Meeting is another good point of reference to consider.
The point of these weekly discussions is to help everyone feel comfortable opening up and discussing their feelings, wishes and concerns. The parents may have to take the lead, especially in the beginning. But even if your children complain, it’s still beneficial and worthwhile in the end. These meetings can be relatively short. About 30 minutes should be sufficient. However, it’s also perfectly normal for them to last an hour or so.
The technical details don’t really matter, as long as it’s seen as a family priority, and planned regularly, the benefits will surely come. The benefits include building family solidarity, reducing stress, solving problems, teaching your child how to voice his or her opinion, analyse and understand family dynamics and reinforcing family values and life skills, to name just a few.
In the end, try to have fun with it, be flexible and open to things not going to plan or discussions getting a little messy. That’s all part of the process. The more meetings you have, the more comfortable everyone will become. Don’t hesitate to create your own version, and feel free to look up some cool ideas online.