Parenting is rough. Parenting military kids is a challenge on a good day, and this back-to-school season does not qualify as a good day.
Chances are, your kids have been asking about the back-to-school plan since mid-May. Mine ask me daily what they are doing, and I still don't know.
But here's what I do know: They will be fine. They will learn this year from a teacher who loves them. They will have friends, they will read books and they will have time to be silly. They will look back on 2020 as something that defined their childhood, and that's OK. We all have something.
Last week, the Military Child Education Coalition presented a Back-to-School Basic Webinar centered around the topic of the year: COVID-19. (You can still register to view that webinar.) It provided tips for parenting through this time, and a few things stood out as really, really important.
- Model good behavior. Children's learning behavior is shaped by what they see their parents do. Remember the last time your family faced something uncertain with your service member's career? Chances are your kids' reaction mimicked your own.
- Stay positive. You know your kids are listening to the constant discussions about school, including the bad things. Make sure you are modeling a good discussion by presenting both sides of the argument and not insulting anyone who disagrees with you.
- Talk to your kids about the changes. Talk with your kids about changes to schedules, why they are wearing a mask or why they're learning from home. Give them time to process their feelings and then listen when they're ready to talk.
- Make a plan to communicate with the teacher. Having a plan to work together with your child's teacher has never been more important. According to a study from Harvard, when teachers and families work together, homework completion increases by 40%.
- Ask for help. There are many, many resources for help as you take a more prominent role in teaching your children. From the teacher to Tutor.com to MCEC to educational advocates, there is something for everyone.
- Don't wait. Parent-teacher conferences are usually too late to address a problem. And this year, those may be virtual as well. Don't hesitate to reach out to the teacher as soon as you have a question or you think a conference is needed.
- Teach communication skills. This year is a great time to help your kids navigate the right way to talk to their teachers. Encourage them to write an email or message to their teacher when they have a question. Or have them ask for a video chat to review a math problem.
- Create positive routines. You're a military family, which means you thrive on routine whether you admit it or not -- so create a good school routine. Try to keep school in one "section" of the house or schedule and then let the rest of life be normal. Try making dinner time one of the ways you engage as a family each day.
- Get enough sleep. This tip applies to everyone. Growing and learning children need sufficient sleep, and so do their parents. It's tempting to stay up late after they go to bed for some time to yourself, but make sure you are getting enough sleep to stay healthy and alert.
- Don't doubt your decision. With the way things are going, even if you make a decision for your children this year, it will change. From virtual options to traditional and everything in between, there are so many things you can choose. But never, ever doubt that you made the right decision for your family and for your children.
Over the course of the next year, we're going to see a lot of changes in our children's education. Some of them will be good, and some of them will be challenging. But we know our kids better than anyone else. We know what they can handle and when they need a break. Don't hesitate to give them what they need.
And if you need more help in any area of this educational unknown, ask the experts -- your military spouse friends who are going through this with you.
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