Single Minded Moms: Help Your Kids Buckle Down for a New School Year!

By Susan Bartell, Psy.D

The school year has only just begun and my eight-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter are already complaining abut doing their homework, forgetting their school assignments, and getting back into school bedtime routine. I’m a single mom who works full-time, and they’re in afterschool programs, and by the time we get home I’m too exhausted to get into drill-sergeant mode and can’t seem to get them on track. What can I do to get them to be more responsible about their school work, and buckle down while starting the school year?
– Stressed out Single Mom, Kelly P, Phoenix, AZ

Ah yes, welcome back to school with a jolt! I know exactly how you feel. It takes a little time for both kids and parents to adjust to the ramped up schedule and more pressured life of the school year. But the beginning of the school year is all about planning and structure! Once you invest a little time and effort to organize your kids‘ lives as well as your own around helping them re-enter the world of hard work, routines, schedules and responsibility, all your lives will run much more smoothly.

While it may seem overwhelming at first, this is only because you too are having a bit of a hard time adjusting to the end of the more relaxed reprieve that summertime brings (and if you’re like me, feeling some resentment that it’s over!)

Here are some tips and suggestions that will help you make these first few weeks much more successful for your whole family!

  • Adhere to strict weeknight bedtimes and risings for the first couple of months (especially for kids under 13). Sleep deprivation is responsible for many of kids‘ difficulties and after the summer they need to get used to the new routine.
  • Prepare clothes, lunches, snacks and backpacks the night before. Doing this in the morning causes stress for everyone as you are adjusting back to school routines. They can do some of this with a babysitter while you’re at work. Children as young as six can make their own school lunch with only a little help.
  • Have ready stash of all the supplies you’ll need for the school year and supplement before running out. These should include: food for school lunch and snacks, pens/pencils, electric pencil sharpener, clear, quiet space for doing homework markers, glue, scissors, rulers etc. The more organized you are in advance, the less last minute, stressful running around you will need to do (although I haven’t figured out how to avoid the last minute cupcakes you will have to bake!)
  • Speak to the person in charge of the afterschool program to ensure that the homework center is conducive to doing homework (supervised, quiet, organized). If there is no homework component, consider a different afterschool program.
  • Set incentives for your kids to complete homework (not punishments!) For example: They will earn TV/computer/video game time each day by completing homework. If they do so they earn the time, if not, they don’t earn it. You don’t have to be a drill sergeant—no negotiations, no fuss. They choose their fate! Just make to pick an incentive that is meaningful to each child.

Other Single Minded Women Articles You Might Enjoy:
As a single Mom is it all right for your kids to co-sleep in bed with you?
Is Your Child Shy? Single Moms We’ve got Advice for you!

It’s Midnight: Do You Know Where Your Teen Is?

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Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally recognized psychologist and award-winning author who has been helping children, teens and families lead healthier, happier lives for over fifteen years. She is the author of four books: Dr. Susan’s Kids-Only Weight Loss Guide: The Parent’s Action Plan for Success; Dr. Susan’s Girls-Only Weight Loss Guide: The Easy, Fun way to Look and Feel Good!, and Stepliving for Teens: Getting Along with Parents, Stepparents, and Siblings; and Mommy or Daddy: Whose Side am I On?

You can reach Dr. Susan at her website: