This back-to-school season is a tough one to navigate. Even before Covid-19 restrictions were in place, kids were already dealing with the complexities of social media, extracurriculars, competitive schooling, and the overwhelming pressure to excel and fit in. This year, instead of striving for a sense of normalcy as we step into the school year, here’s how parents are making the looming school year more joyful and exciting for their kids.
Create special moments
This year, many kids have lost out on what makes childhood so special. Instead of lamenting these missed moments, try and recreate them or make up new ones that can help children play and connect. “For example, plan something that your child has wanted to do that helps them explore their passion, such as a special trip or a day of fun with one parent one-on-one,” suggests Caroline Maguire, M.Ed., parenting expert. Creating special moments to make up for lost ones can help start the school year on a good note.
Make learning a game
Joy strategist Erica Lasan recommends trying to make learning more fun by creating engaging and interactive games out of it. “When you’re asking your kids how their day went or going over homework, listen for areas/subjects where you notice a little hesitation or frustration, and take note,” Lasan says. “These are opportunities for you to create a more fun, a new way of learning around the subject.” If you are struggling to come up with ideas, get some other parents together for a brainstorming session, and perhaps get the kids involved as well.
Set joy as an intention
Mallika Chopra, author of the Just Be series and My Body Is a Rainbow, says that after a year filled with uncertainty and fear surrounding social situations, it’s important for parents to make joy a priority this school year. “Let’s make sure we are laughing, playing, and connecting with love to our kids, showing them how our interactions with each other nurture our soul.”
Make a COVID time capsule
Do you remember making time capsules growing up? It seems like this fun memory-making activity has been forgotten once memories became more digitized, however this year, the classic time capsule may be making a comeback. “Each kid and teen may have an idea that they would like to include that can help future students understand what it was like to live through the pandemic,” says psychologist Jennie Marie Battistin, M.A., LMFT. “Have them include their favorite ways they connected through COVID, favorite memories, and maybe their favorite viral meme,” or, “have them videotape TikTok dances and challenges they learned!”
Start a new tradition
Another fun recommendation for a new tradition that you can establish with your children is to make a “grow-with-me T-shirt.” All you have to do is get a Size-L adult shirt with the year of their high school graduation on the front side. On the backside, have them put their handprint and 2021. Add a handprint every year for visual back-to-school memorabilia.
Make a fun to-do list
Instead of trying to figure out a fun thing to do when some free time with your kids happens to open up, “keep your joy on-demand,” Lasan says. “Have a working list of activities and experiences ready to go—so you’re prepped to go whenever fun-time strikes! Try to keep a list together with activities that suit everyone so there’s little to no time needed to waste on debating.”
Reflect with hope and gratitude
The past 18 or so months have been difficult and have robbed many children of a part of their youth. This may take some intentional effort to process. “Engage kids in reflective activity by [having them write] two letters to themselves,” Battistin suggests. The first letter will be “a letter to themselves about how proud they are for getting through the last school year and overcoming challenges or problems. In the second letter, have them write about their hopes, dreams, and goals for this year that they can seal and read on the last day of school.”