5 Ways to Help Get Them Excited About School
Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By JoAnn Savoia, theauntpsych.wordpress.com
Aunt Psych is JoAnn Savoia (Jo), Mom Psych’s sister-in-law in real life. Widowed by the too-early passing of Mom Psych’s brother, JoAnn finds herself in high demand as literal Aunt to 10 nieces and nephews and Acting Aunt to almost that many young, second cousins. If all of this wasn’t enough to keep her busy, she’s also a financial wizard with an MBA.
Back-to-school time is here again. My nieces and nephews have their new lunch boxes and pencil cases ready. The baby of the family is starting preschool, so in my brother’s house, there is a lot of animated talk about how great it is going to be to sing songs, play in the sandbox, and finger paint. My nephew looks at us skeptically, but he does love to sing; and I think he is starting to believe the hype. I asked my friends and family for some practical tips on what an aunt can do to help get kids excited about school. Their parents have the school supplies and teacher introductions covered. What can I do to help?
1. Support your family’s efforts to get the kids back to a bed and meal time routine.
I recently got kicked out of my nephews’ room for taking too long to say “Goodnight.” I forgot the words to one of our bedtime songs so they located my phone and we consulted YouTube. That led to more video viewing until my brother realized I was being bamboozled by people who did not want to go to bed. He came in and announced, “I’m going to have to evict Aunty Jo.” Most parents let bedtime slip during the summer when kids don’t have to get up so early. When school starts, they have to get them back into their regular routine. Support their efforts by sticking to the rules. If you are babysitting, get them to bed on time. If your brother is watching you, don’t take so long to say “Goodnight” that you have to be forcibly removed. Kids also need to get back to a regular meal routine when they go back to school because their stomachs have a schedule too. My sister only has to step into the next room for the kids to ask me if they can have fruit snacks or lollipops. Be strong and say “No” to the open fridge policy that can sneak up on you over the summer. A kid’s brain needs sleep and nutrition to succeed in school, and your family does not need you undermining the rules.
2. Encourage your nieces and nephews to confide in you about school.
Aunts have a very special opportunity when it comes to getting kids to express their feelings. You are not a parent, but you are trusted like one. They might confide things to you that they don’t want to tell their parents. Find out what they don’t like about school so you can be encouraging. Do they know anyone who is being bullied? Are they having trouble with a teacher? It is not always easy to find out. I helped my sister by picking my niece up in the afternoon when she was in pre-school. Every time she climbed in the car, I would ask, “What did you do today?”
“I’m sure you did something.”
“I played. I don’t want to talk about it.”
We had this conversation for weeks before I learned how to get more out of her. I persisted and finally did learn. You have to find ways to pose engaging questions that can’t be brushed aside with a “Yes” or a “No.”
Ask them to tell you one good thing that happened today so that they are forced to focus on the positive. You cannot help kids stay enthusiastic about school if you don’t know what is going on with their classes, teachers, and friends. They will talk to you if you approach them in the right way; let them know that you care and that you are always there to listen (not lecture).
3. Host a play date with some of their school friends.
For kids, friends are the most important part of school and often the hardest. Talk to your nieces and nephews about making friends and how to be a good one. Their parents probably arrange play dates and sleepovers, but you could help them cement new friendships (and give the parents a break) by taking their friends to the mall or a movie. Show off your cool aunt skills, and help them socialize.
4. Take an interest in their after-school activities.
Not everyone loves sitting in the gymnasium watching basketball practice or by the pool observing swim lessons. But it means a lot to a child to have an audience that cares about what they are doing. It gives you more to talk to them about and shows them that you love them enough to make the time. After-school activities are a highlight of their day and something they can get excited about. Support that whenever you can. I have twiddled my thumbs at baseball, dance lessons, art class, Jedi training (a.k.a. fencing), and gymnastics. However, I draw the line at 4-year-old soccer. We all have our limits.
5. Show some love for the sisters.
The last piece of advice I have been given that I want to mention is not about the kids but the sisters and sisters-in-law. I’m told that sending a child to school or pre-school for the first time can be a fairly traumatic experience for a parent. While some do cartwheels at the thought of that much alone time, others may have a hard time with the separation. Offer to meet them for lunch or coffee if you can work it into your schedule. They will probably just need you to listen, but do let them know that you understand it is hard and that what they are feeling is natural. Even if you don’t really get what they are going through, it is not difficult to be sincere and sympathetic. Moms need encouragement too.
As aunts, by choice or by relation, there is a lot we can do to support our families in their back-to-school rituals. The parents are busy getting kids organized, back on schedule, comfortable with their new classes, and outfitted with this year’s cool t-shirts. We can help get them excited about school by investing our time and sharing our contagious enthusiasm.
Published: September 11, 2012