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Time for the school adjustment

14 strategies new and revised for 2022 kids

By Rochelle Brenner

Even though karate classes run 52 weeks a year, the back-to-school season always has a vibe of urgency and excitement. Everyone is back from summer vacation. No more late nights, sleeping in, building sand castles, splashing at the pool or spending hours in front of the TV before leaving the house.

The pressure is on, parents.

As fast as a fleck of sand gets between your toes, the summer is over and all those martial arts lessons come into play: take turns, meet new people, resolve conflict, listen to the teacher and accept challenges. Instead of anticipating behaving all day and then doing homework, it’s time to actually do it.

We are the place where parents go to help boost their kids’ confidence if they’re inactive, disinterested, screen-addicted, unmotivated, struggling with focus or rebelling. It’s easier to let things slide in the summer. But there is renewed focus at the start of a school year when they face new responsibilities and expectations.

The goal for the first few weeks is to be supportive to your child as they navigate their way through the next stage of their education.

As martial arts instructors we have a front row seat to a variety of kids from a range of schools in different stages of development and ability, which provides helpful insights. Some of the most pressing needs are pandemic-related, some of it is unique to the child, some of it is typical for their age.

Here are 16 Black Belt tips:

  1. Flex your “Grit” muscle. Every time your child sees you show grit, it builds up their reserve of grit as well. It sets the example that they can keep going. Grit is staying focused on your long-term goals even when it’s difficult or challenging. Vow that when things get tough, your family will choose grit over quit.

  2. Do not take your child out for special events like mini-golf or ice-cream that first week. Just let them sleep and relax and digest their day. They don’t need more exciting moments that lead to meltdowns. They need to reflect to have a full tank for the next day.

  3. Stick with as much of your healthy routine as possible. Extracurriculars and hobbies help them develop important skills and coping techniques outside of the school setting. Don’t quit martial arts or tutoring or therapy or swimming or chores or dance. Doing so will often take away an experience that is important for their growth.

  4. Give your child space to process their day. They might need to sit alone, or have one-on-one parent time away from siblings or listen to music. Try not to escalate a temporary emotional reaction. Remember you are their safe person and they can be emotional and dramatic and let it all out with you.

  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your martial arts instructor can help. Your relatives can help. Your peers can help.

  6. Take it one week at a time. You don’t have to solve every problem the first day or first week. Your child doesn’t need straight A’s and four after-school activities this week. Do an assessment of what worked week by week and you’ll see improvements. The teachers are likely doing the same. Just wait until next week or the week after and see what fits and benefits your family.

  7. Set the expectation before you punish them. Example: At camp one year, all the kids left a mess after lunch and went straight to running around. Empty wrappers, half-eaten sandwiches. Our instinct was to yell at them for being messy and discourteous. The next day before lunch, we simply said: You are all required to clean up your own mess. As martial artists, we always like to leave a place better than how we found it. If you help someone else or throw out fallen food even if it’s not yours, that makes you a better martial artist and might get you the chance to pick the next game. As soon as everything is cleaned up, we will go straight to a really fun activity. They were eager to clean up and get to the next thing, with occasional reminders before lunch and instant results. It worked every day for the rest of the summer. It’s like they don’t know what to do unless you explicitly tell them. Give them the opportunity to make the right decision. My goal is for you to have fun, learn and be a good person. I’m happy to let you do the things you want to do. I don’t want to punish you every day at lunch over a couple of crumbs.

  8. Give them options instead of open-ended questions. Do you want to read a book or play Legos? Do you prefer to have screen time immediately after homework or right after dinner or after karate? Either way, it’s the same amount of screen time you decide is appropriate. That’s better than yelling, “Hey, that’s enough on the ipad.” Every day.

  9. I always disagree with the statement, “Children are resilient.” Sure, they are – to a point. They are meant to overcome obstacles with the right support. But their experiences in childhood stay with them for life – and one leads to another. You can’t prevent or protect them from all trauma, but you can try to reduce the impact.

  10. Encourage them to lift their chin when they talk. Tell them to look in your eyes. They look more confident and they are easier to understand. This became more prevalent during the pandemic.

  11. Just a few weeks ago, two 5-year-olds went to shake hands and it took them a good two minutes to actually touch. Both parents said, “They’re pandemic kids.” They aren’t used to even high-fives, but appropriate touch like a high-five is beneficial to their development. Patiently encourage it again.

  12. At the same time, good habits like hand washing and staying home when sick should remain. Some studies suggest less exposure over the last few years means more people are getting whatever is “going around” because they are suddenly in close contact. Keep the good habits established out of necessity.

  13. Students have not advanced in their socialization skills at the same rate. You truly may have to encourage and and force social interaction beyond the screen.

  14. Finally, here are your options: We can make this difficult or do it the Black Belt way. Good choice.

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