Welcome to School Age Life...Let the Real Fun Times Begin
Image by Anna Samoylova via Unsplash
I have to admit that so far, I am enjoying this age the best. Both our kids now fit into this age group and even though there are still constant battles and daily struggles, we are loving the ability to travel around and do more family activities together where everyone can participate. The best part is that you can travel without having to pack so much stuff.
Whether you’re a stay at home mom or a working mom, we all still face similar challenges but ultimately, we all have the same goal and that is to ensure our kids are safe and that we create the most optimal learning and growing environment that we can to the best of our abilities.
Juggling between school activities, extra-curricular activities, household chores, family and friend events and even personal time feels at time to be impossible. We do our best, do what we can and that’s all what it boils down to most days.
Setting routines during this time is the one thing that will be your saving grace and help you keep your sanity most days. The earlier you can do this, the better it will be. There are always days where it's just impossible to stick to that routine but that’s ok. If the routine is already ingrained in their minds, it will be a lot easier to adhere to overall.
Set up morning, afternoon, night, and weekend routines. There will be a lot of trials and errors until you find what works best for your family. These are some of the routines we have set in our household (that did not happen overnight):
Mornings: Kids wake up, brush their teeth, get dressed, make their beds, come downstairs and get their backpacks ready for school, unload the dishwasher, eat breakfast, and off to school they go. Not every morning is perfect and neither are their beds sometimes. But the repetition of that routine is more important than perfection.
Afternoon/Night: Come home from school, eat a snack, homework, dinner, shower, special time, bedtime. Depending on extracurricular activities that occur will dictate the order and time to devote to each activity but overall, the kids know what to expect. We also give them a heads up so they are mentally prepared to transition to the next activity, which I believe is helpful and creates less resistance.
Weekends: The only routines we have around this are getting their laundry done, folded and put away, cleaning up their rooms before any screen time or before we go out anywhere. Again, if there are events scheduled, it may not necessarily get done in that order but the goal for the weekend is to get those done before the new week starts.
Putting these types of routines into place will help you get through your day tremendously.
As parents who grew up not having any opportunities to participate in sports or extracurricular activities, we work very hard to allow that for our kids. This is the perfect time to allow them to explore what's around them so that they can figure out for themselves the things they enjoy and don’t enjoy. Our goal is to expose them to as many new experiences as possible.
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This is also the time when they are really settling into their own opinions and personalities. Their independence. Which means it’s very important to establish rules and boundaries and responsibilities. We talk alot about good and bad choices. Let them do as much for themselves as possible. I’m a firm believer in promoting their independence as a life skill so that they don’t need to rely on others as they get older.
Unfortunately, this is the time when the kids also start being exposed to things around them that we may not necessarily want for them. Things like peer pressure, bullying and negativity. The one thing we feel that is very important to establish early on is having that line of communication open.
We are still working on this on an ongoing basis but the gist of it is that our kids need to feel comfortable with coming to us with their problems and questions. If we get this into place right, it will positively impact them later down the road when the problems and questions they have will be more complicated.
This example I thought was great came from a class I had taken in the past: Kids get sort of a “get out of jail free” type of deal. If they did something wrong, they can freely come to us knowing that they won’t get punished or disciplined. It is to promote them being able to come to us to talk about something that is hard for them to share. The process is not that they get out of trouble per se.
This is meant as a teaching moment and they need to be able to communicate and understand the what and why of their actions as well as provide a solution or future actions of handling it. Repetitive bad choices of course is a different course of action but hopefully with certain measures in place, they will start to recognize and make those better choices.
At this age, as much as they feel they are independent and feel like they know what's best for them, they don’t of course. They need to know there are rules, boundaries and that they are old enough to be responsible for their actions. Some days, it’s a constant power struggle but we’ve quickly learned to pick our battles.
There are things we’ll let them get away with and some things that are absolute nots. It is not ok to slam doors but it is ok to be upset or sad about things. It is not ok to hurt others but it is ok to take out your emotions in your own room. It is ok to voice your own opinions but it’s not ok to be disrespectful.
They need to know and understand and have respect. If these aren’t set early on in their life, it will be very challenging to get them to follow the rules.
This is also the age where they become very aware of their own body parts and how it’s changing. Kids need to grow up knowing that these changes are normal and to not be ashamed of their bodies.
Coming from a Catholic asian home, things like puberty and sex education was never discussed. Falling into the same lines of open communication, this is also another important topic to add to that.
We bought books to help us open up that line of communication. It doesn’t have to be a full on “this is how and where babies really come from” conversation but an introduction to it that is appropriate for their age. I bought a book called "It's Not The Stork!" that we read together as a family.
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In my opinion, I’d rather that they learn the right facts from us first, rather than their friends and peers.
One final thing we also want to impart on our kids is to learn that money doesn’t come from trees. Money is not a privilege. Money is earned through work. We’ve made many bad financial decisions and we want to make sure our kids grow up making good decisions with money management as well. We allow them to earn money through various jobs they can do around the house.
They feel very proud when we take them to the store and they pay for their own toys with their money. They will also spend it very fast but that’s ok. It’s an ongoing lesson on them figuring out what’s worth it to buy and what’s worth it to save for. We have them split up their money they receive as gifts into different portions. Some to reserve to spend on anything they want, some to save, and some to donate or give to those in need.
Things aren’t perfect. Things don’t always go as planned. Different challenges will come and go. There’s the famous line in Forrest Gump that goes, “Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you’re gonna get”. That speaks truth in so many ways. All we can do is equip our kids with tools in their belt so that they can tackle all the challenges that will come their way in the next phase of their life.