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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee Magazine

Empowering Kids During the School Year

Aug 01, 2022 12:00AM ● By Tiffany S. Hinton
As the summer winds down, the new school year is fast approaching and many kids will be back in school by mid-August. As every parent knows, this time is a transitional point of the year, bringing with it additional chores, earlier bedtimes, and schedule changes in order to allow time for homework, sports or training. This can feel like a burden for many parents, and even bring a feeling of overwhelm. However, the earlier mornings and busier afternoons do not need to feel stressful. There are many ways to create empowerment in children, no matter what the age, and we can combine that with tasks needed for school preparation.

There are many empowerment practices that can be taken from the Montessori methodology, which is intended to build more self-confidence and life skills in kids. Here we will discuss three practices, in particular, that can both reduce back-to-school stress for the parent (by giving them more space and time) while teaching empowerment to the child. The idea is to allow the child to make choices from a limited list of options that the parent has pre-chosen. In each of these cases, having “stations” arranged with the items needed for the child to complete the task is the preparation by the parent that sets the stage.

Making Breakfast

Create and fill dedicated spaces in the refrigerator and cabinets specifically with breakfast foods that your child can choose from, such as healthy cereal, breakfast bars, juice or mini milk-boxes.

Making Lunches

The preparation here can be a dedicated drawer in the fridge with approved school-lunch items from which to choose, and a similar cabinet or shelf in the pantry.

Setting Out Clothes

In a specific spot in the dresser, the parent can place outfits pre-folded together for easy access.

With these three empowerment practices, the child will begin to learn to make choices for themselves. They may even begin to think ahead, such as learning to always take a sweater or extra pair of socks in their backpack in case of weather changes.

There are a few tips that can help make this easier.

Restrict devices; perhaps no devices before school, and no devices until after-school chores are complete. After-school chores could include preparation for the next day, such as having a lunch packed and clothes chosen and set out.

Allow the child practice time without intervention, unless they specifically ask for help. The idea is to allow them to build problem-solving skills and confidence. This may be easier by stepping out of the kitchen when the child is packing their lunch, or allowing them to choose an outfit even if it does not match in color or pattern.

Create a checklist for quick reference in the morning to ensure all items are ready for school. The list could include simple things such as a water bottle, a backpack, socks, a snack and homework.

Avoid the temptation to take over when the child slows down or takes a moment to think about their day ahead. Allow the child to work through their confusion and make a decision. If they need help, reduce the choices to two, and give time for them to decide. If they specifically ask for help, do so while explaining to them why the process or decision was made. In a few weeks, the back-to-school schedule and rhythm will be beneficial for both the parent and child.

Tiffany S. Hinton is an avid gardener living in Chicago. She is the creator of the Cultivating Guts podcast and the founder of GF Mom Certified. For more information, call 773-234-6636, email [email protected], or visit or