Getting Ready for “Back to School”

It’s that time again. New friends, new teachers and new routines – how do you make the transition from the lazy days of summer to the school year without making life chaotic and stressful for you and your kids?

That’s the question on every parent’s mind right about now. As we move into the second week of August, we begin to realize that “back to school” is just about back!

Getting a new school year off to a good start can influence your child’s attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically, according to the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). The transition from summer to the classroom can be difficult for both you and your children.

But we as parents can help our children (and the rest of our family) manage the increased pace of life that the new school year brings by planning ahead, being realistic, and maintaining a positive attitude. Here are a few suggestions from the NASP to help ease the transition and promote a successful and rewarding school experience.

Before School Starts

Good physical and mental health. Be sure your child is in good physical and mental health. Schedule doctor and dental checkups early. Discuss any concerns you have over your child’s emotional or psychological development with your pediatrician. Your doctor can help determine if your concerns are normal, age-appropriate issues or require further assessment.

Review all of the information. Review the material sent by the school as soon as it arrives. These packets include important information about your child’s teacher, room number, school supply requirements, sign ups for after-school sports and activities, school calendar dates, bus transportation, health and emergency forms, and volunteer opportunities.

Mark your calendar. Make a note of important dates, especially back-to-school nights. This is especially important if you have children in more than one school and need to juggle obligations.

Buy school supplies early. Try to get the supplies as early as possible and fill the backpacks a week or two before school starts.

Re-establish the bedtime and mealtime routines. Plan to re-establish the bedtime and mealtime routines (especially breakfast) at least one week before school starts.

Turn off the TV. Encourage your child to play quiet games, do puzzles, flash cards, color, or read as early morning activities instead of watching television. This will help ease your child into the learning process and school routine. If possible, maintain this practice throughout the school year.

Minimize clothes shopping woes. Buy only the essentials. Summer clothes are usually fine during the early fall, especially in Florida. Check with your school to confirm dress code guidelines.

Designate and clear a place to do homework. Older children should have the option of studying in their room or a quiet area of the house. Younger children usually need an area set aside in the family room or kitchen to facilitate adult monitoring, supervision, and encouragement.

Select a spot to keep backpacks and lunch boxes. Designate a spot for your children to place their school belongings as well as a place to put important notices and information sent home for you to see. Explain that emptying their backpack each evening is part of their responsibility, even for young children.

Freeze a few easy dinners. It will be much easier on you if you have dinner prepared so that meal preparation will not add to household tensions during the first week of school.

The First Week

Clear your own schedule. To the extent possible, postpone business trips, volunteer meetings, and extra projects. You want to be free to help your child acclimate to the school routine and overcome the confusion or anxiety that many children experience at the start of a new school year.

Make lunches the night before school. Older children should help or make their own. Give them the option to buy lunch in school if they prefer and finances permit.

Set alarm clocks. Have school-age children set their own alarm clocks to get up in the morning. Praise them for prompt response to morning schedules and bus pickups.

Leave plenty of extra time. Make sure your child has plenty of time to get up, eat breakfast, and get to school.

For younger children – send a brief note to your child’s teacher. . Let the teachers know that you are interested in getting regular feedback on how and what your child is doing in school. Be sure to attend back-to-school night and introduce yourself to the teachers.

Extracurricular Activities

Go for quality, not quantity. Your child will benefit most from one or two activities that are fun, reinforce social development, and teach new skills. Too much scheduled time can be stressful, especially for young children, and may make it harder to concentrate on schoolwork. When evaluating extracurricular activities, consider your family schedule and personal energy level. Multiple activities per child may be too much to manage, particularly if the activities have overlapping times, disparate locations, require your attendance, or disrupt the dinner hour.

These are some great tips for helping parents and kids get back into the swing of “back to school.”  So with this said, here’s to a great 2013-14 school year!

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