After Back-to-School Season: Instilling long-lasting tween habits

When it comes to back to school time it’s not enough to check off our long shopping lists and attend our kids’ back to school nights. Making sure your kid is acclimated to his or her new grade or class extends way beyond August and September. We also start every school year with big hopes and dreams for our kids, and a few goals in mind to help them make the most of their time in school. It may be October, but here’s what you can do to make sure your kid has a successful year.

1. Encourage Healthy Choices

Making healthy choices is incredibly important for our kids. It helps them stay focused at school, improves their sleep, and they’re building habits that will last a lifetime. Choosing to reinforce healthy choices throughout the school year can be challenging, but we set expectations early (and often) with a few helpful tips:

  • have the kids pack healthy school lunches and snacks
  • offer healthy after-school snacks
  • prepare homemade dinner whenever possible
  • make time to exercise as a family
  • seize teachable moments as they happen to create conversations about important topics like underage drinking

2. Guard Free Time

One of the most challenging things when your kids get older is to ensure they have plenty of downtime. Kids benefit from free play time and unstructured time to play, run around in the yard, or time to explore their hobbies and interests. Too much structured time, activities, and homework can cause a host of issues. Some ways to make sure they have free time include:

  • one day a week with no planned activities
  • holidays with no travel
  • evenings with the family and no screens
  • family game night
  • family vacations
  • traditions like Saturday morning yard sale shopping, cooking meals together every weekend, pizza on Fridays, etc.

3. Make Time For Friends

Friendships and peer relationships are extremely important to kids who are tweens and teens. Making sure they have time to be with friends, especially with kids who are positive peers or role models are something we are always happy to make time for. We often make that time by limiting their after-school activities, ensuring they have plenty of time and help with homework, and setting up scheduled play dates, sleepovers, and outings with friends.

4. Set Aside Screen-Free Time

Screens are not only a daily part of most kid’s lives and many kids also use them for schoolwork. However, having time without screens is incredibly important, too. It allows kids to use a different part of their brains and engage in creative play. You might try:

  • no screens during the school week
  • screen-free Saturdays or Sundays
  • set amount of screen time
  • earning screen time by doing chores and homework

5. Focus On Improvement

Every year we talk about what the kids’ goals for their school year, but more importantly we focus on improvement over ‘good’ grades. It’s important to focus on improvement because our kids have a range of challenges and strengths in school. Improvement offers them the opportunity to do better with the subjects and topics they struggle with while also allowing them to focus on improving their strengths as well. While you may not be able to get a better grade than an A you can certainly do extra studying, improve your writing, or study ahead in your math textbook.

Your kid is just now getting over the excitement of first day outfits and back-to-school jitters, now it’s time to instill those habits that can last all school year long. These are just a few ways you can make this transitional time better for your kids and you.

Kelly Whalen is the author of The Centsible Life, a website devoted to helping women live well on less, learn how to be savvy money managers, and get the most out of their lives. The site and Kelly have won awards and have been featured in national and local media. When she’s not busy with her four kids, you can find her talking money and motherhood on twitter and Facebook.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility ( or any member.*