10 ways to have a class year
By following some simple guidelines, you can make the school year enjoyable and stress-free for you and your child, writes June Shannon
1 Walk or cycle to school
Build physical activity into children’s daily routine to meet the 60 minutes recommended by the National Guidelines on Physical Activity for Ireland. It has to be safe, of course, and accompanying younger children to school helps parents to stay active too.
2 Sit at the table for family meals
Have at least one meal every day where everybody sits around the table together, advises Joanna Fortune, a child and family psychotherapist with Solamh-Parent Child Relationship Clinic in Dublin. Take turns to share what was the best bit of your day and what was the bit you wished went differently, or would like to change. This builds open lines of communication between parents and children from the age of three right up to teenage years.
3 Turn off before you turn in
Poor concentration and daytime sleepiness in school can be prevented by turning off all smart phones, iPads and computer games a few hours before bedtime. “Anything that is a hand-held device tends to be quite stimulating and then it is really difficult to get children to wind down,” says Fortune. Children up to the age of six or seven should ideally be getting 12 hours’ sleep a night while older children need nine hours, she adds.
4 Play dates are not compulsory
Play dates can be a great opportunity for children to learn to socialise and play together, particularly for only children and young children whose siblings are much older. However, while play dates are an important part of life, they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Fortune says.
“People go one way or the other and generally if you are pro them there is an expectation that the other parent will reciprocate at some point and have your child over. But you are either in on that or you are not. Don’t put yourself or your child in a situation that doesn’t feel good for you and really is causing you more stress than anything else,” she advises.
5 Encourage independence
Appropriate risk-taking is an important developmental part of adolescence. Fortune suggests this may mean parents sending younger children on an errand to the local shop by themselves. As teens get older, that trust might grow to allowing them to go to the local shopping centre for the day and trusting they will call to be picked up, and that for the six hours they are away from you they will be okay.
“That is often a huge step for the parent but it is really important for encouraging independence and the ultimate aim of parenting is that you raise an independent and secure young adult,” she says. “The important thing is that they know they can come to you and say ‘I want to talk to you about drinking, sex’ or whatever.”
6 Know that best is good enough
Schoolchildren today are under immense pressure, both from within themselves and the results-focused education system. Fortune advises that one of the most important things a parent can do is to instil in their child that they simply want them to do their best.