Around the first of August, parents start to get excited about the upcoming school year, and we know why. Some kids actually look forward to starting back to school, usually not for the homework, but for the chance for social activities and to see their friends. Some people are happy all the time, but a much larger group gets more energized as we get closer to the start of school. Since Texas (and many other states) have pushed back the start date for school, there is now more time to get emotionally and otherwise prepared for school. To help parents and children fill their time before school starts, here are five smart parenting tips to try out now.
1. Take advantage of the tax-free weekend. Texas and several other states have set up a weekend (August 15-17 this year) where no sales tax is collected for clothing, shoes and school supplies, among other things. It can save a lot of money for parents because stores usually have a lot of sales then as well. Parents can really stretch their funds if they plan ahead and shop on the tax-free weekend.
2. Coordinate end of summer travel. There is actually more travel time in the summer since the legislature moved back the start date for public schools. Parents should work together to make sure the children get into all the camps and programs they want and there is still time for family vacations. In addition, this summer, with higher gasoline prices, many families have decided to have stay-at-home vacations where they do local sightseeing. That is uncharted territory for many families who are not really familiar with what their hometown offers. In Fort Worth, for example, we have several major museums, including the Amon Carter, Kimbell, Modern, Cowgirl, Sid Richardson and Civil War, along with many interesting smaller museums. The Fort Worth Cats provide inexpensive, but comfortable and fun, entertainment at LaGrave Field, and they've won three straight league championships. The Texas Rangers provide comfortable and fun entertainment in Arlington.
3. Communicate with the other parent. A simple statement, it is nevertheless really hard for many parents to do. Communication involves sending (speaking, writing, emailing, etc.) and receiving (listening) messages and understanding what was conveyed. Life can be a lot better when the parents are talking and listening with each other and coordinating plans instead of trying to put their children in the middle of a tug of war. Theoretically, it is not hard to tell the other parent about plans for summer activity or sports classes, school schedules, start of the school year activities, kids' work plans, car/transportation issues, and sports and other extra-curricular activities. The trick is to talk with each other (respectfully) before your knee starts jerking. The knee-jerk reaction is to either ignore or tune out the other parent while mentally revisiting past arguments. A lot of problems can be avoided when the parties just talk with each other on a regular basis and share what's going on with their child.
4. Cooperate on health issues. At this time of year, parents learn about, or remember, needing to get physicals, dental exams, shots and medicine for their kids. The month of August is often difficult for scheduling medical or dental appointments. Parents should work together to get the appointments made as early as possible and they should be flexible in scheduling their time with the children. Both parents should be willing to take the kids to doctor's appointments, etc. Neither parent should engage in “offensive scheduling” — trying to schedule appointments to disrupt the other parent's plans or to create scheduling problems or deplete the other parent's time with the children. Parents should play fair and share the commitment to obtain whatever is needed to start the school year.
5. Leave a week's cushion just before school starts. Don't schedule much for the last week before school starts. There will always be last-minute issues that will require immediate and sustained attention. New requirements will be discovered and plans will change. Don't plan to take the kids out of town that last week. They need to be rested and adjusted to the schedule they will be following during the school year. It's a good idea to start to impose the bed time and wake-up schedule of the school year so that the kids get used to it.
If parents will try out these simple ideas, they will find the month of August to be more peaceful, fun and productive for themselves and the children.