By ReShonda Tate
Summer is coming to an end and parents are preparing to send their precious little ones back-to-school. The Defender has compiled some tips on how parents can avoid being overwhelmed as they prepare for the summer-to-school transition.
- Get in ‘school’ mode . Kids have gotten used to later bedtimes and sleeping in. The adjustment to a school schedule can be difficult. To adjust to the change, set your kids’ sleep schedules back to “School Time” two weeks before the first day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends children 6-13 years old sleep between 9 to 11 hours and teenagers, between 14 to 17 years old, should get about 8 to 10 hours. If you start adjusting their schedule now, by the time the first school bell rings, kids will already be on the right sleeping schedule and it will be one less worry for your family.
- Shift the mindset. Explore cultural things, either online or in person to shift your child’s brain into “Scholar” mode. Encourage your kids to read at least one book before the school year begins. But while it is important to support learning throughout the summer, don’t spend the last weeks of summer vacation reviewing last year’s curriculum. All kids need some down time before the rigors of school begin. For some kids, last-minute drills can heighten anxiety, reminding them of what they’ve forgotten instead of what they remember.
- Set schedules. Establish regular routines, especially fo preschoolers and elementary-aged children. Not only does this include bedtime and wake-up time, but homework schedules, play time and computer/video game time. The Children at Risk Foundation recommends only allowing children four hours of video games during the school week. Schedule study blocks on the weekends before big tests, mid-terms and finals. Use positive phrasing, such as “You can go outside after your homework is done,” rather than “You’re not going outside until this is finished.”
- Get to know new teachers. Don’t wait on open houses, orientations, and other meet-and-greet options to get to know your kids’ teachers. Try to find a few minutes before or after school to connect one-on-one with the teachers. Familiarizing your child with their environment will help them avoid a nervous stomach on the first day. Together you can meet your child’s teacher, find her desk, or explore the playground. With an older child, you might ask him to give you a tour of the school. This will help refresh his memory and yours.
- Plan healthy lunches and snacks. The better you plan out the meals in your home, the healthier choices you will make for your kids. When you pack protein-rich snacks and lunches, balanced with fruits, vegetables, and other wholesome items, you ensure that your children will have the energy and brainpower to make it through their school days.
- Organize clothing. Donate or dispose of the clothing that your kids have outgrown, but you should also take the time to carefully organize what is left. From there, decide what items you may need more of before school begins. The last thing a parent wants is to spend time each day trying to find a pair of pants that fits.
- Set up a homework area . Find a central spot to store everything related to school, including backpacks, school supplies and a dry erase calendar with family schedules. Try to keep this area free of clutter and other non-school items so that you can find what you need, when you need it. Go through your kids’ schoolwork once a month to toss the things you don’t want. Create an inbox for kids to leave things that need your attention, like permission slips. Repurpose and relabel plastic tubs to organize all school supplies.
- If your child needs a physical, consider going to urgent care. Most schools require a physical examination and signed consent forms from parents before the sport season starts. The form is online and available at most pediatrician’s offices. If you can’t squeeze in an appointment, consider stopping by an urgent care or walk-in clinic.
- Prepare the night before. Encourage your kids to lay out their school clothes and pack their lunch the night before. Nothing leads to a stressful morning like children running around looking for something to wear or stressing because you’re out of peanut butter.
- Ready, set, learn. Set up weekly meetings to review your kids’ schedules for the
week(s) ahead. Set your clocks forward 10 minutes. This makes it easier to be on time. Create a family calendar that tracks everyone’s activities and commitments. Set a regular alarm each day that signals the start of homework time.