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Back To School Tips from Ronald Biles

Back to School is a Balancing Act

There is perhaps not a more difficult day for a parent than the first day of school. Will they get there safely? Do they know where their classes are? Will they make the right friends? And I’m not just talking about sending your kindergartener off on day one. Every year brings a new challenge and some new anxiety. After all, kids are in school for upwards of 6 hours a day. Add in after care for the young ones, sports and extracurricular activities for the older ones, and kids easily spend more time with friends, peers and teachers than they do at home.

Responsibility starts with us as parents. It’s all a balancing act. For our family, that meant homeschooling Simone starting in eighth grade to ensure that she would be able to reach her goals. Back to school time in our house was probably a little different than in yours, we weren’t worried about her not being able to find her locker, but the worries about our kids were the same. Although our daughter may have had different schedules to stick to and decisions to make, it was still up to us as parents to make sure she was ready to go on day one, whether it be to the gym, the classroom, a friend’s house where we had to trust in her judgement among her peers.

It’s our job to arm our kids with the right materials to be successful at school, in sports, and beyond. Your son wouldn’t be allowed out the door in the morning without his bookbag, you know? You wouldn’t send your daughter to soccer practice without shin guards, right? This is also true about information. Before they head back to school, have conversations with your kids and let’s continue to have them throughout the year. We need to be sure our kids have the power to make healthy decisions. Sometimes this means saying YES with surety and pride. Other times this will mean saying NO with confidence and determination.

Having conversations with your kids may sound like a daunting task. But let’s remember—they are kids! They are ours. We brought them up from youngsters and are working towards turning them into amazing adults. No one has ever had YOUR kids. No one knows the best way to approach them except you. Start the conversation the way that works for your dynamic. Some decide that one-on-one is the answer. Others prefer the all-inclusive family meeting. Even more decide that a car trip (to the gym perhaps?) might be the best approach since that may mean less eye contact and a captive audience. I’ve even heard of people starting the conversation over text and continuing it in person a little bit down the road.

No matter how you have the conversation, the most important thing is that have the conversation. Be available for questions. Looks for changes in behavior and friends. Let them know where you stand on topics such as underage drinking, and the reasons it’s unhealthy, illegal and dangerous. Give them an easy way to get out of a bad situation. And best of all, be available for them. Take a deep breath and get ready to answer the hard questions. Deliver your answers with the assurance that you will always be there for them and that you will help them make the right decisions. We are so proud that Simone decided to join the Responsibility.org and Ask, Listen, Learn team. We hope that her positive message of making good decisions, setting goals and working hard will really resonate with kids of all ages—particularly during this time of change that is BACK TO SCHOOL. You can take a look at Simone’s journey as part of the Ask, Listen, Learn Team here.

Ronald Biles

For more information about talking to your upper elementary and middle school aged children about underage drinking, visit the Ask Listen Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix website, and join the community of over 5000 parents and educators working to help kids say YES to a healthy lifestyle and NO to underage drinking.

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