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Kick Off the New School Year with Kindness!

Three Tips To Start a New School Year Right — With Fun & Positivity  

Author: Jennifer Fischer
1. Focus on Family Dinners — Unplugged! 

The single most transformative thing we did as a family a few years ago was commit to family dinners — unplugged (no TV, no devices).

We manage to do these almost nightly now, and it makes such a difference for our family. If you don’t already do this, starting when children head back to school can work quite well. It’s a great time to establish new routines or to reestablish this if the summer has gotten you out of the habit of family dinnertime. Our family dinner experience grew out of a family commitment to gratitude. Each night at dinner, we each share what we’re “happy for” from that day. I love hearing what makes fills my children with joy, and I value this daily habit myself to check in and focus on gratitude. 

I’ve come to enjoy creating healthy (and affordable) meals for our family, but don’t let “family dinner” intimidate you or make you feel overwhelmed — it can be take out and still be a quality family dinner or leftovers or even “platter” or “nosh night.” During busy weeks, this is my go to, I lay out a platter with cheese, fruit, veggies, bread, whatever is around, and everyone can create what they like: a sandwich or just graze. Keep it simple and focus on the fun of family time, unplugged.

Want some free and easy compassionate conversation starters? Check this post out!

2. Commit to Family Service

This may seem challenging, but it’s not. The key is to start with something simple. Try one of these:
  • Pick up trash on the way to and from school, if you walk. Start with just one day each month. 
  • Collect food for the food pantry in September, which is Hunger Action Month. 
  • Write gratitude postcards once a week or on the third Thursday of each month. 
  • Create Chemo Care Kits for Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, which is also in September.
  • Poke around on our site for other ideas. We value showing you just how simple (and fun) it can be.

Pennies grew out of a commitment one family made to focus on just 15 minutes a day serving others and has grown into something incredible from there. 

I’ve discovered that though this can seem like “one more thing” to do, it actually has been THE THING that makes all the rest fall into place. By integrating a commitment to serving others into our daily life, we foster an environment of caring and kindness. Siblings get along better. The family is more connected. It is something we now can’t imagine not having in our lives. Take the opportunity, as you set a new schedule for the school year, to integrate a kindness routine into that schedule.   

3. Start a New Chapter Book
Reading aloud offers an opportunity for children to practice compassion and empathy skills.

This summer, our family read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe together. This was our second family chapter book. Our first was The Little Prince, which we read during a road trip last Fall. As we read together this summer, we discovered that we all loved this ending to our day as we slowed down, settled in, snuggled up and read. Reading aloud offers an opportunity for children to practice compassionate listening. It offers the chance to discuss topics that come up through your book and to watch your child engage with a story — do their eyes light up with excitement at certain parts, do they look nervous and afraid at other times?

It’s a great jumping off point for discussing emotions. During this reading time, pause in the discussion when you our your child see kindness or unkindness in action. What happens when someone is kind or unkind? How has something similar happened to you and how did you feel? If it was unkind, what was done to resolve the situation?

It also demonstrates a love for literature and learning. We haven’t selected our next chapter book. If you’ve got a recommendation, we’d love to hear it!   

Bonus Tip: Schedule in Time for You! 

Take the time to figure out what you need. Infusing your back to school routine with kindness should include doing something kind for yourself. Would you like to work toward one “date night” each month with your partner? Is it Saturday mornings in a quiet house to yourself — or at least one Saturday morning for yourself every now and then? Have you been wanting to take morning walks or evening strolls? Remember, this can be simple and easy and affordable.

Find a night or day when you know your partner, a relative or good friend, can watch the kids and go to a movie, peruse a museum on a free museum day, go for a hike, or sit at your local coffee shop with a good book. To keep it cost-effective, swap babysitting with trusted friends that also have children. We’ve found that this works well for us as it makes a regular date night affordable. 

What routines or traditions strengthen your family and keep your school year stress-free? Are you already integrating kindness into your family’s life? If so, tell us how! Let’s inspire each other!