School will soon be starting again. In order for things to run smoothly parents need to sit down with their children and hold a back-to-school family meeting. Family councils are a great way to prepare for any event or ongoing family schedule. Knowing what is expected and what is possible can be a big boost in improving child and parent relationships. And, it can pave the way for a more successful school experience for your children.

For this council session to be productive, both parents need to pre-plan the meeting. Discuss together what items need to be addressed. Make a list. Come to a united decision regarding each item so your children know you're both on board with it. That way they won't be playing one parent against the other.

Avoid a military type "Now hear this!" kind of atmosphere. Make it fun. Let your kids know that you will be discussing things that will make their back-to-school experience better than ever. You could have a mug full of colorful pencils with a discussion topic taped to each pencil. A child chooses a pencil, the topic is discussed, then another child chooses another pencil. (They get to keep their pencil.) This goes on until all topics have been discussed. When you're finished serve a special treat (maybe back-to-school banana splits).

Six things you could discuss in your back-to-school council

1. School clothes

Discuss your plans for buying any new school clothes. If you don't let your children know your budget limitations they may get carried away in what they want without really knowing what they can have. Set a time when you will look through their existing clothes that are still in good condition. Make a plan for shopping for new items. This could include a visit to a local thrift store where many good choices are available to families on a low budget. Even if you're not on a low budget, it would be a good experience to challenge them to pick at least one item they like from the thrift store. Sometimes you can find almost new designer clothes at these outlets.

2. Wake-up and bed times

Discuss what time you expect each child to wake up and start getting ready for school. Let your kids know what time breakfast will be ready. If your children are on a bus schedule, have the schedule in hand so you can accurately plan when they need to walk out the door.

Discuss what time each child needs to be in bed on school nights. It will differ depending on the age. Let your kids have some input here, but remember you are the parent and you must be the final word. Have fun with this. If your teenager says, "Oh, midnight." You laugh and say, "Tell me another joke." Then seriously discuss a reasonable time. Getting enough sleep at night is vital for children to function at their best and to maintain good health. Elementary age children need at least 10 hours of sleep and teens need at least 8 to 9 hours. To help this happen you may need to take cell phones until morning. It's too tempting to call or text way into the night.

3. Chores

Discuss what chores your kids need to do before going to school such as make your bed, put your pajamas away or put your breakfast dishes in the sink. Discuss what chores they are expected to do after school. These need to be reasonable, but definitely part of your child's responsibility. Assign things like setting the table, washing the dishes, feeding the dog or whatever duties your family requires. Children who share in home chores learn the value of work. Let this be part of your child's education. Successful life depends on knowing how to work.

4. Homework

Discuss when homework is to be done. Let your kids know this is a priority item. Also, let them know that you will be there to assist them when needed. Some parents require children to show them what homework they need to do when they come home each day. Being accountable is important. It's no fun for a parent to receive a call from a teacher saying his child has not been turning in homework assignments. Stay on top of this so your child won't fall behind.

5. Bullying

Discuss what bullying is and how hurtful it can be. Let your child know that if anyone is bullying her you want to know about it. You can help your child know what to do to counteract and stop it. Also, make it clear that no one in your family will bully anyone.

6. Teachers

Discuss the importance of respecting teachers. Let your children know that you will be getting acquainted with their teachers. Encourage them to share their feelings about their teachers. Some aren't going to like their teachers, and that's OK, but it's not OK to disrespect them.

The whole point of this back-to-school council is to help your children be ready and prepared to have a great school year. Keep it positive. Tell them how proud of them you are and that you're confident they will do just fine. Let them know that you will always be ready to listen to them and help them with challenges they may face.

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