The return to school this fall marks the beginning of another unique experience for Chicago families.

School dist5 Tips for Dealing With the Uncertainty of This School Yearricts in Chicago have decided students will return to distance learning for the 2020/2021 school year. This news wasn’t exactly what many busy parents were hoping to hear, but for the safety and health of our community, the remote learning experience makes the most sense.

Your family is probably feeling a lot of different emotions about schools not reopening this fall. Your kids may be feeling disheartened and sad knowing they won’t be reunited with their friends and favorite teachers. And you and your spouse may be feeling stress, frustrated, and overwhelmed knowing your home will once again be a classroom.

As you and your family are going through these different emotions, remember that you made it through the last school year, and that means you’re now armed with even more experience this time around!

Incorporate these 5 tips for busy parents, and we’re confident you and your family can have a wonderful new school year at home.

1. Remember to prioritize your kids’ well-being and health over school.

As a parent, it doesn’t need to be said that your kids’ well-being is the most important thing. But often when life gets hectic, priorities can become jumbled without realizing it.

If your kids are just not having a great day with schoolwork, it’s natural to want to push back and encourage them to focus. After all, your kids’ education is crucial. But be aware of when the line into mental health or happiness is being crossed.

Kids have bad days, just as you’ll have unfocused, unproductive days at work. Sometimes the best thing to do is say, “Today just isn’t a great day. Let’s take time off to unwind and start fresh in the morning.” In the grand scheme of things, a child’s late assignment isn’t likely a very big deal, especially right now with distance learning in effect.

2. Ditch strict schedules that don’t work without a struggle, and aim for a flexible one that works with your kids’ ideas.

The funny thing about a strict schedule is that the more structured it is, the less likely it is to work long term, especially with kids who are learning at home.

Rather than trying to emulate the strict schedule of your kids’ typical school day, consider embracing the variability that comes with learning from home. Replace specific time slots with wider time blocks that allow your kids, and life, to have a say in what they feel like doing.

For example, if your child is more in the mood to read or work on a science project than work on math or write a history paper, work with them rather than against them. This type of flexible schedule is more likely to yield happier kids, less conflict, and often higher productivity. (This type of flexibility works for grown-ups too!)

3. Create daily routines that help give structure to every family member’s day.

Daily routines are part of a daily schedule and make up the “must-dos” each family member has to take care of every day. Your family’s daily schedule might be flexible and differ from day to day, but daily routines are fairly concrete.

Creating and sticking to daily routines make these parts of the day a normal habit, which gives stability and is especially helpful for keeping kids on track. For example, a morning routine might consist of waking up, brushing teeth, and having breakfast together as a family. The more this pattern is repeated, the more it becomes a habit.

For younger kids, creating a pretty poster that explains morning, afternoon, and bedtime routines can be really helpful for busy parents, as it helps foster independence.

4. Take regular five- to 10-minute breaks throughout the school day and encourage your kids to do the same.

Taking regular breaks is probably the best thing you and your kids can do during school days at home. Even within a normal school environment, kids take a lot of breaks, whether it’s recess, time between classes, or simply chatting with friends in the classroom. Think about a normal day at the office, and you might be surprised at how often you take breaks too.

Using an app or kitchen timer is a great way to create focus sessions along with breaks. For example, 30 minutes of total focus followed by a five-minute break can really ramp up productivity. Experiment with your kids and see what works best. You can even check out your phone’s app store to look for a focus timer that captures your kids’ interest.

5. Knowing that perfection doesn’t exist and everything isn’t within your control can be freeing.

When you have kids, you control their environment to keep them safe, you control their education so they succeed in life, and you control their diet to ensure they grow healthy and strong. Because parents are accustomed to being in control, feeling like a situation is out of control can be extremely frustrating and can even make you feel like you’re failing.

When you’re feeling this way, evaluate the situation, and consider that not being able to control everything is actually a wonderful experience. You don’t need to try to be perfect because perfection simply doesn’t exist. The only thing within your control is how you choose to react to difficult situations.

Just as you’d talk to your child who comes to you feeling defeated or frustrated, try to speak to yourself with the same understanding.

Don’t forget to book your year-end preventive dental appointments before the holiday season.

Back-to-school dental cleanings and exams are a must for kids, but don’t forget about your own dental health as we near the last quarter of the year.

If it’s been six months or longer since your last dentist visit, it’s time to book an appointment before your schedule is slammed with holiday planning. You could  even practice a little self-care by booking a professional teeth whitening session!

To schedule an appointment, you can either give our Millennium Park office a call or fill out this handy online request form.