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Get a Strategy!

September 1, 2016
Patrick Ward , MOV Parent

By the time you are reading this, school will have been in session for about a month. I don't know about you, but summer whizzed by like a bottle rocket for our family, leaving us a little startled by the abrupt beginning to another school year. The end of summer can catch us a little off guard. That being the case, its still possible to get a grip and find a successful strategy to stay whole, balanced and healthy as a family. This takes planning and preparation.

Now's the time to clarify what your goals are for this school year. Parents, we are in charge of driving this focus until our kids are old enough to identify their own goals that you can support. When thinking about goals, values and priorities, ask yourselves what kind of family do you want to be? How great do you want your marriage to be? What kind of grades do you want to make this year? How healthy do you want to be?

We all need to think about our whole selves and be in charge of caring for ourselves and our families; spiritually, physically, socially and psychologically.

I'll use my family as an example. We want to have quality relationship time together. To accomplish this, we strive to have dinner together around the table as many nights as possible. Other priorities, such as sports, work and other good things can become barriers to this seemingly simple plan to have dinner together. Actually, its pretty easy for us to fail at this unless we guard this time and commit to making it happen. This is true of almost all of our goals and dreams, be it family time, spiritual growth, physical fitness or relationships. Sometimes other priorities choke things out, but how often is it just poor planning? How often is it that we fritter away our time on our Netflix queue or Facebook?

So how do you aim and prepare and get where you want to go in life? Once you know what kind of life you want, its easy. All you have to do is write it down in a planner, and follow your plan! Write it down. Do you want to have a family night once a week? Then everybody needs to write it down in their planners. So when something else comes up, like another shift is offered, or the kids' friends invite them to the pool - you can look at your planner and say "We already have an important appointment for that time."

If you have scheduled yourself a morning walk before work because you want to lose a few pounds, then you don't allow yourself to hit the snooze button - you've made an appointment for yourself you have to attend! If your child's goal (or your goal for her) is to get a B average this term then homework has to be planned.

I'm glad I brought that up, because planning for academic success is a very worthy goal. In order to get that goal accomplished, you need a really good but simple strategy. When your child comes home from school, I advise getting them a healthy snack and some exercise before making them do homework.

Studies show children focus better after they've had some good exercise. Also, create a good environment for study that is free from distractions. That means no TV and no social media. It also helps if the child can have something to look forward to as a reward for finishing their school work, like free time to play video games.

When we put first things first, there is still time to enjoy the secondary things in a way that makes them even sweeter.

Patrick Ward, Ph.D. is a marriage and family therapist in Parkersburg. Visit his website at



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