For families with school-aged children, New Year’s really comes in August, says Wake Forest University counseling professor Samuel T. Gladding. “Why not make new school year resolutions that set the family up for success?” Gladding, who is the author of “Family Therapy” and several other books on counseling, offers 10 tips for how to decrease stress and strengthen family relationships.
1. Prevent overscheduling. The time to avoid too many commitments is at the start of the school year. Don’t wait until family members have signed up for more clubs, athletic teams and other activities than they can handle. Work out a schedule that allows for curiosity, exploration, spontaneity and serendipity.
2. Commit to being involved in students’ artistic, academic or athletic events. Intentionally decide how to make time to encourage children in their chosen pursuits. Encouragement is far more important than achievement in building parent-child relationships.
3. Establish morning, evening and homework routines. The start of the year is the time to put in place “Television-free Tuesdays” or “7 – 9 p.m. homework hours” or “Friday family movie night.” Set expectations and start forming good habits.
4. Focus on strengths. Everyone knows their weaknesses; parents don’t need to point them out. Parents and children: focus on staying good at what you’re good at and getting stronger in areas where you haven’t done as well.
5. Don’t try to unscramble the eggs, make an omelet instead. Don’t try to live the past year over. This is the chance to hit the reset button. Create something new with what you have, learn from past experiences, and avoid letting bad times with a teacher or fellow student from the past year overshadow new adventures or pursuits.
6. Make time for mini-celebrations. Passing a test you didn’t think you were going to pass. Doing something thoughtful for someone else. Make recognizing small achievements a part of the weekly routine and stick to it. Write down milestones large and small. Like a height chart for younger children, a written record helps remind children and adults of growth and progress.
7. Be in the same place at the same time. If you don’t plan to spend time together as a family, it’s not going to happen. Family dinners are the simplest way to strengthen family bonds by sharing food for nourishment and food for thought.
8. Teach brothers and sisters to treat each other like allies instead of aliens. Family harmony depends on helping siblings support each other. Doing activities together builds bonds, promotes socialization and fosters good memories.
9. Minimize multitasking when you are together as a family. To have more fun and get more done, resolve to focus on one thing at a time. Research shows that individuals do best when they concentrate on doing one task and not several tasks at the same time.
10. Make community service a priority. Families who give back have a common sense of purpose.
The new school year with busier schedules and higher expectations holds challenges for everyone, but keeping these resolutions can help families focus on what’s important.
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