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5 Ways to Mentally Prepare Your Children for Back To School

Mentally Prepare Your Children for Back to School via @familysportlifeThere is nothing like preparing for back to school to highlight the level of daily chaos busy families face these days.  Coordinating all the activities, making sure everyone has the needed supplies, the anticipation of a new set of teacher guidelines, and ALL THE PAPER can make this an anxious time of year.  What I think we can all agree on is that children sense our anxiety, stress, apprehension, and overwhelm.

The question I face every new school year is “how can I decrease family stress or tension?”  I have found it comes down to two things: increased communication and empowering my children.

Through increased communication and an increased focus on a child’s self-esteem, you can easily help them mentally prepare for the new school year.  In the process you will also draw your family closer together and teach your children a repeatable process for dealing with new situations.

Here are 5 Ways to Mentally Prepare Your Children for Back To School:

Focus on the positives

Whether your child is looking forward to seeing old friends or has anxiety about new situations, here are some questions to help them think more positively:

  • What are you looking most forward to this school year?
  • What new things would you like to try?
  • What does your best day look like?
  • What does a successful school year look like?
  • What skill would you like to improve?

It’s not an inquisition.  These are powerful questions designed to shift your child’s perspective and to create awareness.  When speaking with my kids as we get closer to school, I simply incorporate these questions into our daily conversation.  Try jotting down the answers so you can go back to your kids and follow up with them.  This will show them you were listening and value their thoughts.

Set Goals:

The start of the school year is an excellent time for kids to set some personal goals.  Kids as young as 4 or 5 are capable of setting goals with assistance from an adult.  Capping your kids around 3 goals will teach them to focus on the critical few.  We focus on learning a new skill, improving a skill, overcoming a fear, and/or behaviors to encourage independence.  New for us this year – we will be taking each child out to dinner individually to celebrate the new school year.  We are going to use this time to talk about the goals they have for themselves and how we can help them achieve those goals.  We will then discuss each family members goals at our Sunday night dinner.

Encourage Autonomy:

Giving children control over their environment, where appropriate, is an important way to empower them.  One way to do this is by asking them for input.  Ask them to help you get organized for back to school.  We review our morning routine together and determine what works and what might make sense to change.  We do the same thing with our afternoon routine.  Ask your kids how they like to work.  Do they like to do their homework together at the kitchen table or do they want to use their rooms?  By the time we are done, they will have established routines that work for them giving them greater motivation to stick with the plan.  Don’t forget to capture all their routines into various checklists making easy to follow templates.

Celebrate Traditions or Make New Ones:

We like to celebrate the fall and all of the traditions we have established over the years.  Knowing fun things are on the fall schedule goes a long way in reframing attitudes about the start of the school year.  Plan some family fun and communicate it in the weeks leading up to school to get your kids excited and feeling festive.

Family Meetings:

If you don’t already have regular family meetings, consider adding them to your weekly routine.  We have busy schedules and during the week it can be hard to stay connected to one another.  We make sure to always have Sunday dinner together and use it as the platform for our family meetings.  I find you only need 10 minutes to review the prior week and rundown the upcoming week.  We find our family meetings the most helpful during times of transition like starting a new school year.

The family meeting is a great way to plan “chaos-free” time to focus on your family’s core values and give your children a sense of routine.

How do you help your children mentally prepare for back to school?



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Getting Organized for the Week Ahead

7 comments - Latest by:
  • Ana Lynn I love the tip about setting the goals and one on one sessions. Our daughter is super excited and our …
  • Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama These are such awesome tips! I am getting ready for kindergarten too and honestly I am trying to keep my …

Meal Plan Inspiration|August 17, 2014

Meal Plan Inspiration via @familysportlife

As I type this we are enjoying some much needed rest at one of our favorite vacation spots.  And here is a first – I am blogging from my iPad so who knows what this will look like!  No mouse and sketchy WIFI.  However, the downtime has given me a great opportunity to look for some recipes and plan out this week’s meals.  It has also given my adrenals a much needed break during a challenging week for my health.  Over three months into restoring my adrenal functioning and I am finally understanding the power of sleep and doing NOTHING.

Meal Plan Inspiration|August 17, 2014

Sunday: Creamy Zucchini

Monday: Balsamic Roasted Veggies + Salmon

Tuesday: Goat Cheese, Asian Pear, + Beet Salad.  I am downright obsessed with beets and can’t wait to try this salad.

Wednesday: Eggs Your Way

Thursday: Leftovers + light fare.  Sometimes we just “pick” for dinner.  I might make myself a mini antipasto plate or we have cannellini bean and mint humus and veggies.  This humus recipe from A Dish of Daily Life looks  like it is worth a try.

Friday: Out to Dinner to celebrate the last day of camp.  Hopefully this will take the sting out of The A Team’s upset.  They have had the best summer yet.

Saturday: Steak + Green Beans + Cauliflower Rice.  Cauliflower rice is John’s new obsession.  He made it today for the first time and has asked we put it on the menu.

For Other Meal Plan Inspiration Ideas:

Follow Family Sport Life – Tara Newman’s board eat real food – main meals on Pinterest.

What’s on your meal plan for the week? Please share your favorite recipes in the comments below!

21 comments - Latest by:
  • Tara Newman Well, the meal plan was only going to work if I actually went grocery shopping when we got back from …
  • GiGi Eats GROAR!!! I am to late! I wanted to come over on MONDAY NIGHT! Any leftovers for me?

How to Create a Weekly Template

How to Create a Weekly Template via @familysportlifeCreating templates are one of my favorite ways to keep things organized and everyone on the same page. My goal is to template any task or workflow that:

  1. Needs to be done regularly.
  2. Needs to be delegated.

For example, before the start of the school year or before the start of camp, I write out a checklist (a template) of what my kids need to do to get themselves ready in the mornings. In this case I am delegating something that needs to get done daily. This is a proactive measure to ensure The A Team’s success at completing a critical task that saves me a tremendous amount of time. The template gives them everything they need to know and minimizes questions or errors.

Here is something to think about:

Templates are also applicable to weekly management and not just task management. We all have a natural flow to our week and the point of a weekly template is to capitalize on our most productive times for certain tasks. I assign each day a focus or a theme.

A weekly template provides you with a structure for getting your higher level tasks accomplished. If you can tap into your natural rhythm for getting things done, you will be infinitely more productive. For example, I need Mondays to ease my way into the week. This is not a good time for me to learn new things or be creative. However, it is an excellent time for me to map out my week and do some future planning.

Spend some time thinking about when you would be most productive at:

  • Planning
  • Errands
  • Creativity
  • Family Time
  • Meal Prep
  • Rest (Yes! Rest is productive)
  • Work
  • Reading
  • Meetings
  • Time with Friends

My weekly template looks like for my personal life:

Sunday – Meal Prep + Family Time
Monday – Organization/Planning – Weekly Review, Calendaring, Planning, Phone Calls, Follow Ups, etc.
Tuesday – Create – I use this day to write, work on the blog
Wednesday – Learn – Find new podcasts, listen to podcasts, read for learning, research
Thursday – Projects – make progress on longer term projects
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Errands + Me time

If you want to take things to the next level:

Plan out what each day would look like for you. This doesn’t have to be minute for minute, a straight forward framework is helpful. It can be as simple as:

  • Morning – Time spent with myself (workout, read, journal, mediation)
  • Day time – Work + Doing something related to my theme
  • Evening – Rest + Family

Some people create a spreadsheet or chart to help them map out what their weekly template would look like. This tool might help you visualize your week better: Family Sport Life – Weekly Template

Some benefits of a Weekly Template:

  • Having a weekly template allows you to live by design not by default.
  • Living by design creates a life focused on purpose and vision.
  • A weekly template allows you to be proactive with your time.
  • Having a weekly template gives you more flexibility because you have a line of sight.  If adjustments are needed, you know what you might have to sacrifice to get something more pressing done.
  • Planning your time each day becomes easier when you have a specific focus or goal in mind.

What tools do you use to organize your week? Let me know in the comments below.

More from the Getting Organized for the Week Ahead Series:

Getting Organized for the Week Ahead

How to Gain Focus for the Week Ahead

Why We Need to Write Things Down

How to Conquer a Chaotic Week

5 Tips to Help You Delegate (like a boss!)


20 comments - Latest by:
  • Tara Newman It works for me. It also helps me stay organized if I need to make a change. So …
  • Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout This is great, Tara! I've been amazed at how much just living in a new house has upended my …

Ironman Lake Placid 2014 Race Report

The lead up to my first Ironman (Lake Placid) felt very similar to my wedding day.  A year of anticipation, planning and endless to-do lists, and then it’s over in a flash.  The wedding comparison ends there because as I compose this, the post-Ironman blues have begun to set in.  The biggest question I have is , “What’s next?”  I will answer that in future posts and keep this one strictly a “brass tacks” race report.  So here it goes, Ironman Lake Placid 2014.


I am not a great swimmer by any stretch of the imagination.  I am OK at best.  On my best day, with perfect conditions and no other activity to perform, I could finish the 2.4 miles in 1:10:00.  With 138.2 miles ahead of me after the swim, I would be happy with something close to a 1:15:00.

My pre-race nerves were in check as I stood on the beach and tried to soak in everything I could.  This was the second year Ironman has implemented a rolling swim start.  I witnessed it in the inaugural year (2013) as a volunteer and spectator.  Last year, I was slightly disappointed a mass start was not used.  I wanted to experience it both as a spectator and and a participant.  In 2013, I received many mixed reviews from athletes about the new format, but I was still leaning toward the traditional mass start.  I can now say that I am fully in favor of the new rolling start method. Read more

32 comments - Latest by:
  • Tim Hill Great recap John. Every time I read an IMLP recap I get a little more nervous, but there's also a …
  • John Newman Carly- Thank you very much. It was a great experience that gives me tons of content for future posts. …

Meal Plan Inspiration|Week of August 11, 2014

Meal Plan Inspiration via @familysportlifeIf you haven’t had an opportunity to check out last week’s meal plan, you should definitely give it a look see.  I am really pleased with how it shaped up.  Here were some highlights:

  1. All the veggies we used last week were in season at the farmer’s market.
  2. The Ratatouille was fantastic and I am NOT an eggplant fan.
  3. I had enough Ratatouille and Meatloaf left over to take for lunch.
  4. The Ratatouille was incredibly versatile for John and I.  It was a side dish.  It was a vegetarian main meal.  It tasted great when I crumbled up the meatloaf and mixed it in for extra protein.

Here is this week’s meal plan inspiration:

Sunday: Build your own salad.  This was a suggestion from The A Team.  I always make sure they have a say in the meal plan and take their recommendations seriously.  Autonomy, in essence control, is an important motivator.

Here is what I plan on having on the table: lettuce, cucumber, peppers, shredded carrot, roasted beets, cut up peaches, avocado, corn, and salmon.  Need some salad inspiration? Check out this Triple-Berry Summer Salad.

Monday: Crock Pot Rice and Beans.

Tuesday: Little A has “late night” at her camp where all the parents get to visit.  We get to watch their swimming progress and they put on a skit.  They serve “camp food” for dinner.  John and I will have some left overs or just pick on veggies and humus when we get home (late).

Wednesday: Asparagus, kale and Red Onion Frittata.  I just chop everything up and make it like a Frittata.  Need some inspiration? Zucchini and Tomato Frittata.

Thursday: Sandwiches. We are traveling so it’s easy.

Friday: BBQ – Hamburgers|Hot Dogs|Veggie Burgers – it’s summer and the livin’ is easy. Desert – Chocolate Zucchini Bread.

Saturday: Steak|Roasted Potatoes|Green Beans

What are you eating this week? If you have a favorite recipe, drop it in the comment section below!

For more meal plan inspiration check out the What’s for Dinner link up with Jill Conyers and Laura from Mommy Run Fast.

27 comments - Latest by:
  • Tara Newman I have my favorites that I rotate through as well but I became really unmotivated. Need the inspiration myself!
  • Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama I am so inspired! usually I rotate between my top 4 recipes that I can cook in my sleep. This …