Back to School….Again!
The school year is upon us, and while summer weather may continue here in San Diego, the rest of any young student’s life is about to go through a major change. Classes, new friends, meaningful teachers, and hopefully hobbies, talents and interests new and old will emerge as the school year progresses. Our idea for your family this month is to counter all that scheduled activity with some basic routines in your home – call them traditions if you like – ones that make family a part of every day.
Here are five routines/traditions to establish this school year:
- Family dinner. You may or may not eat together on a regular basis already, and the school year being in full swing certainly doesn’t help in the effort of getting everyone in the same place (let alone cooking!) but this one is a biggie. However brief, the time spent together around the dinner table is a great way to give your child a chance to relate to the family unit, and get the fuel they need to power through their homework. In our house we always played the same game around the dinner table, “good thing, bad thing,” where each person says one good and one bad thing that happened to him or her that day. Feel free to use this tradition or create one of your own – just keep the conversation going!
- Reading together. This one has no age limit and unlimited benefits. When your kids are youngest, make reading to them before bedtime a habit as much as a tradition. It’s a critical way to reinforce their literacy and vocabulary from early on. As they grow, move on to chapter books and continue the story one night to the next. If your older children are game, try reading a novel at the same time as them, or even just spend time together silently reading on the same couch. Read to each other. Reading is a great substitute for television or internet time, and sharing your own favorite books with your child is a great way to get to know each other in a whole new way.
- Humor. Laughter can get you through just about anything – if your sense of humor is tuned up! Where’s yours at? Are you grumpier than you need to be around your kids, or do you carry the stress of work home with you? This routine could be private – you telling yourself a joke on the way home from work to loosen up before you spend time with your family; public – you all tell jokes around the dinner table or in the car; or both – incorporate humor any way you can, at any time. Inject some silliness into a situation your child may be taking too seriously. Humor keeps things in perspective, reminding us that things don’t always go as planned, but life itself is a beautiful thing – no matter what – when we have time for laughter and a positive attitude.
- Signs of Affection. These may not be the most obvious ‘routine’ of your child’s day, but signs of affection every day are undeniably the most powerful routine you can establish with your children and those you love. Hugs, kisses, back rubs, snuggling, and more hugs – mutually reciprocated! – are always worth including, wherever and whenever you can.
- Wild card. This one’s up to you. Get creative! Perhaps challenge yourself to form a unique routine with each or all of your children – maybe a monthly dinner at a favorite restaurant, or a weekly or biweekly trip hiking or driving somewhere special, just you and them. Changing things up from the typical creates memories, not just of the experience itself, but also of the fact that you care enough to make the effort and do something new, just to keep life interesting.
Be well this September, and enjoy the feel of a new routine!
Dr. de Freitas
Founder of Healthy Chats, Dr. Chrystal de Freitas is a pediatrician, author and mother of three children who has a special interest in health education. She completed her pediatric training at the University of Washington, in Seattle, WA, and has been in private practice for 22 years. She practiced with North County Health Services in Encinitas, for 6 years. In 2004, Dr. de Freitas opened her solo private practice of pediatrics, Carmel Valley Pediatrics in San Diego, CA.