In a school setting we’re lucky to have two beginnings. We begin fresh each school year at the end of summer vacation, and we get to begin again with the calendar new year. Traditionally this is a time for reflection of the past year’s actions and activities, and a time to turn over new leaves in areas we target for improvement or change. It’s a great time to think about our families and the traditions we want to establish and the values we hope to impart to our children through these traditions.
The feeling of security within one’s family is important to the child. We can help to create that for our children by providing stability in our relationships with them. Having routines, procedures that we follow, chores that we do as a way of contributing to our family, fun activities to share, games to play, and vacations to take all contribute to a child’s sense of safety within the environment. These routines and ways of behaving become dependable to the child and help the child feel like s/he belongs to the family.
In earlier times these activities were controlled totally by the parents, but in today’s times of encouraging cooperation among family members we can ask for our children’s input. For example, when assigning chores (children do not get paid for chores; they do these as part of their membership in the family) parents and children together can create a list of chores that the household needs having done. Then each child can choose a chore for a time period, say for a week. At the end of the week, the children can change chores. In this way the good jobs and the less popular jobs are shared, and everyone knows that no one will be stuck with the worst chore forever! Once the chores are chosen, however, there is no bargaining out of them. If you see that piano lessons on Thursday might interfere with the execution of a chore, you might ask your child how s/he plans to manage the chore and the lesson on Thursday. It would go something like this, “In looking ahead at the week’s schedule I notice that you have a piano lesson on Thursday at 5:00, which is when the dog usually gets fed. I wonder how you’re going to manage both activities?”
Times for things like dinner, homework if there is any, TV watching, bathing, reading, and brushing teeth need to be established so that everyone knows what happens when. This can be accomplished by asking the child when s/he would like to plan for these. “Would you like to read your book before or after your bath? Do you want to do your homework before dinner or after dinner?” Again, once times or routines have found agreement among yourselves, then everyone must adhere to them. That’s called follow through – it’s your parental job and it’s very important. When you follow through with agreements, you can do so cheerfully and with a kind but firm tone of voice.
Don’t forget to use this forum for planning fun things to do with your family like movies, beach trips, and your annual family vacation. When children feel like they have a say in the activities of the family, they feel like they belong. And they do.
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Director/Elementary 1 Teacher