By Jessica Kelmon, Senior Editor
Amid the excitement and anticipation of heading back to school, there's a lot of family stress. Sleep-deprived teens, summertime screen habits, new-classroom butterflies, old-fashioned homework wars — it all comes to a head at precisely the same time of year when we adults all have just as many hours of work and rush-hour traffic to wade through.
In our Google+ Hangouts about raising kids with #emotionalsmarts, we bring together two experts to share their intel. The goal is real, smart advice parents can actually use. Since school is starting, we asked two family happiness experts — Christine Carter and Bruce Feiler — how to handle this tough transition time. Here are their surprisingly cool tips.
Tip #1: Make morning tasks as routine as possible. That way, neither you nor your kids have to think about every step.
Here’s how: Have your kids create lists of what they need to do each morning. Sociologist and happiness expert Christine Carter says her four kids, ages 11-14, use the 30/30 app each morning to manage their routines.
Tip #2: High-functioning families do three things, says author of The Secrets of Happy Families Bruce Feiler: they adapt, they talk, and they play together. Take time to talk about what’s not working about your family routine, then brainstorm a couple of simple ways to fix it.
Here’s how: Make the kids come up with the solutions. Feiler’s family holds weekly meetings to discuss what’s not working and what they want to change. The biggest mistake? When the parents try to impose a master plan without the kids' input.
Tip #3: Instead of boosting your kids’ self-esteem, teach self-compassion, says Carter.
Here’s how: When children are feeling bad, don’t jump in to cheer them up. Example: instead of telling a child who has called herself dumb that she is smart, say: “It sounds like you’re feeling insecure about…” By validating your child’s feelings and explaining that their feelings are normal, you teach the beginnings of self-compassion.
Tip #4: You're the parent — don't let the clock steal your job.
Here’s how: When it comes to morning, homework, and bedtime routines, it's easy to let the clock take over: “We have five minutes – scramble!” “Molly gets to stay up until 10 pm.” Instead, remember that you're the parent. You decide what needs doing and when. (Psst… see next tip about enforcing bedtime.)
Tip #5: Sleep matters for health, happiness, and the ability to learn, says Carter. Sleep trumps school work. Every time.
Here’s how: Explain the science of sleep: sleep-deprived people can’t learn as well, and kids who get enough sleep do better in school in the long run. Carter says her four kids get between 9½ and 10½ hours — the amount tweens and young teens need — a night.
Tip #6: Go for "small wins," says Feiler. The myth is that it's just too much — and parents should just give up.
Here’s how: Instead of tackling seven issues at once, Feiler recommends picking one. (And, adds Carter, make it the easiest one!) Fix the problem slowly over time. Then pick another. Small wins spell success.
What are your secrets for keeping your family's back-to-school season happy?
Here's to a happy, stress-free back-to-school season for you and your family.Follow @JessicaKelmon