New Year, New Leaf? Helping your son grow emotionally.

keep calm and turn over a new leaf imageThe year is about to turn again, 2017 will be here before we know it, and this is a great opportunity for students to turn over a new leaf and take a fresh perspective on school. Of course, if this is a regular practice, your son may be one of what a friend calls “Fall Boys.” They have turned over so many new leaves that the ground is littered with them and it looks like fall.

Well, fall is past and spring will soon be here, bringing with it new opportunities and new approaches. Here are some possibilities you and your son can try that might help him manage school.

  1. Activity – if your son is restless in school, he needs to work that restlessness out. Get him one of the activity trackers and challenge him to walk/run 10,000 steps in a day or 5 miles – or whatever seems appropriate for your child. He should clock some of that movement before school each day and certainly after school. The tracker will remind him to keep moving especially if it is connected to an app on his phone or computer. Most boys will rise to the occasion when there is some sort of competition. See if you can beat him!
  2. Along with this increase in activity, see if your son and his friends would like to train for a competitive race. Most communities have races that have children’s classes and your son might like to get a group together to compete. Even if the only prize is a T-shirt, it will give him some sign of task completion that he can wear with pride. And, who knows? He may try for a marathon or a half-marathon one of these days.
  3. If running doesn’t seem to appeal, how about walking? But walking as a game. We live in the country so it is easy to make a game such as how many squirrels do we see today or how big are the new leaves getting? Those of you who live in cities can count the number of people you see as you walk around the block or what signs have been put out. Have your son keep a log of everything that he sees on his daily walks. The walks don’t have to be long, but keeping records of what you see will make the walks more interesting and there is the benefit of developing writing skills as well. Have him record the weather – temperature, precipitation, what the sky looks like – each day. A simple outdoor thermometer and a small rain gauge will make it more interesting. As he gets more skilled, you may have to find a small anemometer to measure the speed of the wind and a barometer to help predict what the weather will be. Paying attention to the weather as you walk may help your son develop skills in observation.
  4. Chores – One way to help boys develop the organizational skills necessary to succeed in life is for them to have regular household chores. The beginning of a new year is a great time to begin new habits especially if you include yourself in the new behaviors. The point to be made is that everyone in the family does chores. That is part of what makes a family – they work for each other. If he does no chores, you put your child in the same position as a house guest, which means he is not valuing the ties that bind you all together as a family unit. Make sure that the chores are not too simple or he will think you do not respect his abilities, but also not too complicated or he will stop out of frustration. A great time to begin the new chore is when he’s on a school break, but make sure that he knows that this will continue once he is back in school. After all, you do a lot more around the house than he does, and you also likely work outside the home.
  5. Cooking – many boys enjoy cooking as it may seem like an edible form of making a mess. Start by including him in the daily part of cooking. Take him to the grocery store with you. On the way, discuss what you are planning for the menu for the next several days and what you need to buy to make those dishes. If the meal is one of his favorites, he may be better motivated to help you. There is a great deal of math and science in cooking and having him measure the half cup of milk or the two teaspoons of salt gives him a lot of experience. Yes, it will take you longer to include him at first, but as he gets more skilled, he will be a legitimate sous chef and eventually will be able to prepare meals for the family. The real lesson in cooking is how to organize what you are doing so that everything ends up on the table at the same time.

Your son will not figure out that what he is doing is preparing to do work and so he will be eager to learn these new skills or engaged in these new activities. Work, any sort of work, will help him develop the skills necessary to succeed in life and in school. When children are engaged in real work, they are usually very eager and get absorbed in the activity. That sort of concentration will help him the rest of his life.

Happy Holidays, and I hope that the new year brings you joy and peace.