Don’t let your kid start school without doing this first

The first back to school commercials came out weeks ago, but now it’s really happening. New backpacks, fresh kicks, hunting for the water bottles in the back of the kitchen cabinets, inputting all the upcoming dates on the calendar- it’s officially go-time!

This year is happening. Your kids are going back to school. But are they ready?

Whether your kid is in 3rd grade or junior year in high school, it’s an important year. The choices they make to engage or disengage in class, to work through challenges or avoid them, to invest in friendships with good kids or look for the trouble-makers, to do what they need to do for college prep or push it off for later, to learn how to manage their own schedule and their own lives or to continue to let you own their responsibilities — all of those are at stake. You might be ready for them to get off their devices, get out of the house, and get back on a normal rhythm, but are they ready to take more ownership for their lives, for the things that not only are they truly responsible for (because it’s their lives) but also are the things that you can’t really control anyway?

You can’t control how they pay attention in school; if they really care or really learn.

You can’t control how they interact with their peers; if they make wise choices and act with kindness.

You can’t control how they feel about themselves; if they feel confident or worthy.

You can’t control if they have aspirational goals for their future.

Are these the things that keep you up at night? What do you do with that anxiety?

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You can’t control them, but you do have the capacity and power to influence them in specific ways. You can model for them a life of meaning, purpose, and connection. And you can invite them to hit the pause button for a few minutes before school starts and reflect on the bigger questions and dynamics of their lives, not without your input, of course, but primarily to give your kids the freedom to think through how they want this year to go. There’s a lot that you can’t control, there’s a lot they can’t control, but there are certainly a few decisions they do have the capacity and agency to make if they were guided to think reflectively before and throughout the year. That is something you can and must do to help your kids have their best year ever.


Don’t just talk about how their academic goals, but widen the view to also consider their friendships, sports and activities, mental and physical health, family relationships, and anything else that is important to them. Their life and growth and development and maturity includes school but is so much more than that, too.

PRO TIP #1: Let them know a couple of days in advance that you want to have this conversation, and ask them to start thinking about how they want this year to go- with school, sports, friends, college prep, family, mental health, etc.

PRO TIP #2: When you sit down to talk about each area, make sure you don’t interrupt or add your own two cents. Instead, seek to understand what they want and what they’re hoping for, and try as hard as you can to avoid sounding judgmental or frustrated! You can quickly shut down a conversation. Instead, use the time to get to know more about what they think about, worry about, and dream about.

PRO TIP #3: Write down what they say, post it in a public place like a family bulletin board, and review what they talked about every month or so. Use open-ended questions like, “How’s it going finding friends you can really be yourself with?”

If you’d like more guidance, we have a worksheet you can download, print out, and let the prompts guide your conversation.

We’d love to hear how the exercise goes, or any tips you’d share with other parents to guide their kids into personal responsibility and ownership of their lives. Drop us an email or tag us on social media @theyouschool

Learn more about the resources we have for parents.