Summer is ending and with that comes a whole myriad of emotions for parents. Maybe you feel a sense of accomplishment with all that you’ve done with your family and friends. Perhaps you feel a little dread that the school year is looming and anxious about the busyness that awaits. You might feel a little relief, that the kids who have been bored will finally be able to reconnect with friends they have missed. There might even be a little regret that you didn’t enjoy summer enough, and now it is already nearing the end! And quite honestly, you might find yourself floating between all these emotions intermittently!
No matter where you fall, I encourage you to consider finishing summer strong and positive. One great way to do that is to establish some back-to-school traditions! These traditions provide something special that you and your child can anticipate each year and make a lasting impression of your time spent together!
I’d like to share the one I find most special and probably the kids’ favorite as well! We go on back-to-school dates! I take each individual child on a date with just them and me. This time is a great way to connect, share thoughts, and truly enjoy them in a different way.Spending time with a child one-on-one can bring out a whole new dimension of their personality. Click & Tweet!
This time together allows you to talk, laugh, ask questions, and mostly listen!
Over the last several years, I have enjoyed many dates from eating delicious Italian food and tasty Mexican food to devouring some wonderful steaks, and yes, even this year, experimenting with sushi! I have bought clothes for kids age 5-20, urged boys to try on clothes, and strongly encouraged my daughter to stop trying on clothes! I have sat in photo booths, enjoyed a dance off, and consumed more ice cream than I could ever calculate! But what I love most are the smiles that are etched in my mind of the happy faces sitting across from me and the hands that reach for mine as we walk together.
We usually start our date with the long drive to town. I make an extra effort to not use my phone to call others but just focus on anything that my child might want to discuss. You might be surprised at the things they will bring up when they have your undivided attention.
Once we arrive in town, we stop at a few stores to find what clothing items they might need for school. One item we always buy is a new backpack. Often, we need a few shirts, shoes, socks, underwear, jeans, dress clothes, etc. It is a great time to learn about their likes and dislikes, their ideas, and their problem solving. Who would guess that school shopping could be such an insightful time? It feels incredible to know that you are connecting and relating while getting a major item on your to-do list done together! Now don’t worry, I know some of you may be thinking, “My child would never enjoy shopping! It is like pulling teeth!” If your child is this way, just do as much shopping as they can handle and still have fun. After all, this is supposed to be a FUN tradition…one they look forward to year after year!
At some point during the date, we go out to eat. The child gets to choose where to go. Oh, how they love this part! Again, this is a wonderful time to really connect and learn about your child. What do they choose? Why do they choose it? Let them feel like the guest of honor for this date. Eating out is a great chance to learn those special social graces, like putting your napkin on your lap, how to order politely, how to use proper manners and more. This can be a fun time to learn some of these little lessons. But even more importantly, I encourage you to use this time during dinner to address some specific conversations. Talk about the upcoming school year and how they are feeling about a new teacher, new subjects, etc. Discuss how things are feeling in the family. Is there anything they wish the family could do differently? And last, but not least, I encourage you to ask specific questions about your relationship with them. How are we doing? Is there anything you need me to do different or to show you that I care? Do you feel like you can ask me for things you need? Do you know I care? Do I need to show it differently? Yes, you might need to prepare yourself for their feedback. But I strongly encourage you to take the risk and ask the tough questions. Keeping this dialogue going is very important.I have been floored by the number of adolescents that sit in my counseling office, feeling as though their parents don’t care about them, won’t listen to them, or feeling afraid or unable to ask their parents for what they need. Click To Tweet
I highly encourage you to keep the lines of communication open between you and your child. If they know you are comfortable asking these questions, they will learn to be more comfortable with answering them. And yes, they may need you to encourage them to share openly and honestly. But trust me, it will be worth it in the long run. After all, if you are doing something that is causing a problem, wouldn’t you want the chance to know so you can fix it?! Click here for a great list of questions to start meaningful conversation between you and your child. (This will give you the opportunity to sign up for the newsletter so you can have access to all the free resources and tip sheets I provide with blog articles!) If you already subscribe to the newsletter, this free resource can be found in the blog announcement email you already received.
At the completion of the meal, I usually try to give them some special parting words that express my gratitude and pride in the person they are becoming. I encourage them in the year ahead and address any specific concerns with my assurance and desire to support and pray for them. These are the moments I wish I could freeze frame. They are moments that stay forever etched in my heart. I have been doing back to school dates with my kids since our oldest started kindergarten seventeen years ago. Our youngest hasn’t started school, but I will continue doing them with him until he graduates college! By my figure, I have several dates ahead! I will never tire of these precious moments spent one-on-one.
Sometimes, we decide to do a little ice cream together, and other times we are too stuffed from a huge meal. Either way, we try to make our time special. We may continue shopping, visit an arcade, stop by the book store, watch a movie, walk around the mall, or just start our long drive home. This is where you get to make the date very personal and doable for you and your budget. And when you do head for home, remember it’s still a no phone zone! This is golden time to interact and show them how much you value everything they care to discuss, no matter how trivial or dramatic!
Once home, our children are usually excited to show other family members the great finds and share the details of the fun date. And yes, this is often when we identify the special first day of school outfit! It has been neat to watch our kids genuinely enjoy what their siblings have to share. They ask questions and ooooh and awwwww over all the right things, making this child feel special all over again! I have to admit these back-to-school dates have become a treasure in our family!
Following is a list of the back-to-school traditions we enjoy each year:
School supply shopping all together and snacks to follow (smoothies, ice cream, pretzels, etc.)
Getting a new outfit for the first day of school
Labeling supplies and packing new backpacks together
Pictures on the first day of school in the same spot (watch them move up the door or wall as they grow)
Special sign to hold on their first day of school that says their new grade (you may choose to include more, such as career choice, teacher, likes, dislikes, etc.)
The idea of back-to-school traditions can be quite adaptable to your available time, resources, or needs.Taking time to develop traditions makes us be more intentional with our time, efforts, and energy. It helps us focus our activities on a desired connection or meaningful outcome. Click To Tweet
You may have already developed family traditions for holidays. Maybe you can add this to the special list as well! You might like to try one of these out this year and adopt something similar for your family. Or maybe you have an exciting back-to-school tradition of your own to share. Feel free to leave your tradition in the comments below!
Let’s do this!