Back-To-School Tips

The new school year is fast approaching and many families are about to start preparing their children for the first day back to school by shopping for new clothes and school supplies, and having some last minute family fun before summer's end.

Most parents know the transition from summer fun to the seriousness of school doesn't always go smoothly. Many children begin the school year ill prepared for the structured activities, the rigid schedules, new classrooms, and changes in diet. These problems are easily avoided, however, with a little foresight, some pre-planning, and good ol' parental guidance.

Here are some tips to help you and your child make a smoother transition into the new school year.

Reintroduce a healthy sleep pattern
Parents can help their children get ready for the new school year by gradually moving their bedtime earlier each night. By getting to bed earlier, a child is more likely to get a good night's sleep in preparation for the first day of school. Feeling more rested, children will eventually wake up on their own instead of having you prod them out of bed to rush and get ready for school.

I suggest beginning an earlier bedtime a few weeks before the first day of school. How long this process will take depends on your commitment, consistency, and the severity of the changes in sleeping patterns. If naps were part of your children's summer routine, work towards phasing those out and putting your children to bed 30 minutes earlier. The next morning, let them wake up naturally, if possible. (Don't encourage children to sleep past mid-morning, unless they are ill.)

Every few days, move their bedtime up 30 minutes. And pay attention the next morning to the time they wake up on their own. When you reach the prime-time target (the time they need to get up for school), stick with it. If your children have a full week of new school bedtimes and wake-up times, you'll find things can become much easier for those first weeks of school - no matter the age of your children.

Get back into reading, writing and arithmetic
Many children spend their summers doing exactly what kids should do...playing, swimming, and enjoying their friends. The absence of school schedules and structured learning activities can actually add to stress and anxiety for some children, especially when moving to a higher grade. One way you can prepare your kids for this transition is to reintroduce the joy of reading and writing at home. Encourage them to read books of their choice. Ask them to write stories about anything that interests them, and have them do their own illustrations. Find a topic that interests your child and create fun ways to learn more about that topic. You can incorporate math, history, science, reading, writing, and good ol' fun into any subject.

I call it "home schooling" your life - everyday. The world is your classroom.

Participate in summer school events
Almost every child goes through the first day of school jitters, even those who love school. Reacquainting your children with their friends, teachers, and the school building itself can ease much of the nervousness about going back to school, especially when your children are transitioning into a new school.

Not everyone lives in the same neighborhood as their school. If you and your children haven't had a chance to socialize with schoolmates, then try doing it now! Call the other parents and plan a "Back to School" get-together at a local park, the mall, or at your home. Attend school events with your entire family. This gives you and your children a chance to see the other students, meet with teachers, and make new friends.

For many older children, starting middle school or high school for the first time can seem overwhelming. Being involved and attending events together at the school can help your child become familiar with the lay out and structure of their new academic home. Remember the first time you walked into high school? Just finding the homeroom and your locker can make you late for your first class.

Finding time to help your children become comfortable in their school environment, familiarizing them with the new faces working there, meeting other students and getting reacquainted with old friends can not only ease the first day of school jitters, it may also give your kids a reason to be excited and eager to get there.

Get the entire family back into a school schedule
Sleeping patterns are just one part of preparing kids for a new school year. It is also important to reintroduce the whole household to the school schedule before that school bell rings.

What is your normal routine during the school year? What do the kids usually do with you after school?

Encourage the family to dress and eat a healthy breakfast as soon as they wake up during the summer break, just as they would during the school year. If you work outside of the house, take the time to sit down with your children to read or play educational games when you get home from work, just as you would do during the school year when working on homework together. One of the keys to this is to make it fun. Most kids don't want to think about homework, reading or writing if it's stressful, and you don't want them to begin dreading schoolwork before school starts.

Prepare your children for riding the school bus
If your children will be riding a school bus, talk to them about it. Show them where it will pick them up, where they will meet the bus after school is over, and answer any questions they may have about bullies on the bus, what happens if they miss the bus, etc. There are some great safety tips, important for all children to know, at A Safer Site.

All of us at the Hullistic Network wish all the best to you and yours for a fruitful and prosperous 2006/2007 school year.

Additional Resources:
American Academy of Pediatrics
Library Spot
Kids Health
National Association for the Education of Young Children

Posted August 2006 | Permanent Link

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