These schedule-free months of summer holiday have been a welcome respite from the intense time constraints that school in session mandates. In fact, you’re even beginning to feel wistful about having to resume your “take no prisoners we’re on a strict schedule” persona and you’d love to help make your kids back to school transition as painless as possible. And if you can learn to establish some new ways of doing things so that back to school will be as drama free as possible well you’re all for it.
Make learning fun
According to Mary Muscari, an associate professor and director of the O’Connor Office for Rural Studies in the Decker School of Nursing at Binghamton University, an expert in child health, mental health, and co-authored of Everything Parents Guide to Raising Adolescent Girls andEverything Parents Guide to Raising Adolescent Boys unfortunately, while it’s great for kids to be kids and have fun, they can also suffer from the use it or lose it syndrome if they have not been encouraged to flex their ‘thinking muscles’ over the summer.
“Fortunately kids are pretty resilient, so they can get back into the swing of things better than parents can,” says Professor Muscari. “The best thing parents can do as they kick off a new school year is to institute a few changes into their kid’s routine to help make the transition back to school as painless as possible.”
Use those first few weeks of school to establish more of an academic routine
Professor Muscari offers these tips to help parents, create a home environment where learning is fun. The premise of the following activities is to get your kids learning, researching and using their noggin in fun ways- that don’t seem academic in the least bit. And yet in doing these exercises kids will be they’re flexing their critical thinking skills and developing skills they can then use to master subjects in school.
- Pull out the books from last year and set up ‘class times’ for them to review their old material so they are more ready to learn the new. Have them read, read, and read some more.
- Trade TV for books. Mix it up with some audio books.
- Start a family dictionary and come up with a word-a-day that has meaning to your family
- Throw a book-themed party.
- Create a comic book.
- Develop a theme song for your favorite book.
- Get them writing; Write a movie script. Write a letter to your favorite author. Start a journal or blog about your child’s adventures in the grade they’re attending ? beginning with prepping for school an ending with the last day of class when it arrives.
- Make a scrapbook on your safari through the state park or even your own backyard before the leaves turn to their fall colors.
- Interview local community members to learn about your neighborhood.
Set up a sleep schedule
After a summer likely filled with many nights where your kids heads are not even close to hitting their pillows at 9pm, back?to-school will mean instituting some new sleep schedules. And since no parent wants to be on the receiving end of a phone call from a teacher telling her that her child is nodding off in class, Ahish Shah, M.D., director of Goryeb’s Pediatric Sleep Disorder Center, offers these tips to help parents get kids back on the right sleep schedules.
- Naps are a No-No. Although they might temporarily recharge a child’s batteries, naps after school only make a child less tired when it comes time for them to head to bed.
- Maintain the Same Sleep Schedule on Weekends, Holidays. Avoid late nights and sleeping in to ensure that your children aren’t too sluggish on Monday morning. If children end up having a late night Friday or Saturday, wake them up early the next day.
- Ease off the Caffeine. Energy drinks, which are commonly found in high school vending machines, only give kids a short burst of energy that lead to a quick crash. Instead of looking for a quick burst of energy, parents should make sure their kids are maintaining a healthy lifestyle, featuring plenty of exercise and nutritional food that will keep them feeling good.
- Turn off the electronics. Texting, watching TV and playing video games can leave kids stimulated when they get into bed. Avoid bright lights from electronic devices in the bedroom ? instead, try keeping a book on the nightstand to read, which will help calm them down before sleep.
Tackle those first day jitters
Whether your child is a first grader or a fifth grader, more likely than not he/she will experience those initial first day jitters. According Tara Gleeson, pediatric nurse practitioner at Goryeb Children’s Hospital for parents of first graders this will be an especially difficult transition for kids.
“For new first graders, the start of school can be very stressful. There are many different reasons they may be worried and parents should not assume they know why. They should talk to their children and find out specifically what are their concerns. ”
Ms. Gleason recommends that parents may wish to encourage their child to think about what are the things they are most looking forward to about starting school and what they are not looking forward to, Children may reveal they are nervous about the longer school day or eating in the cafeteria for the first time. Others may think they can not do the work or will not have friends. Parents can then direct support where it is needed a trip to school to meet with teacher and find out what the lunchroom looks like or where bathrooms are may be all it takes. Parents can also remind children of their past successes. “Remember when you were nervous about preschool and it turned out to be great?”
Ms. Gleason offers these tips to keep in mind when helping your first grader make it through that first day without completely falling apart- and refusing to leave the house.
- A specific ritual may ease the goodbye process. A special hug or shared goodbye phrase may be helpful.
- Leave plenty of time in the morning for breakfast and getting dressed.
- Prepare as much as possible the day before. Discuss lunch choices and what the child plans to wear to avoid Game Day stress.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep.
- Sending your child with a token, such as a family photo, special bracelet or pocket trinket, may do the trick.
- Avoid lengthy emotional goodbyes and keep the routine simple and structured.
Conquering first day jitters for older kids
For second to fifth grader exhibiting anxiety rather excitement over the first day of school; first day jitters may bring different significance notes Ms. Gleason. For instance older kids may be worried about lockers and changing classes.
“Parents should encourage kids to talk to other older children who have been through the experience, taking care to be sure they are children who have had a good experience,” says Ms. Gleason. “Practicing with the lock for their locker ahead of time and getting together with a few friends who will be in the class can also be a benefit.”
Ms. Gleason recommends that parent share their own stories which may also help children relax and it’s important stress to them that the first day is just the start of a great year rather than a distinct event. It can also help to highlight the privileges the new grade brings, such as special trips or access to the ‘upperclassman’ playground, which can also help ease some of their stress.
Getting your kids to do homework without it turning into WWIII
Homework and the business of getting it done is something that parents and children have been struggling with for years, and yet with each new back to school season, our very resourceful kids can whip up a battery of reasons why they can’t seem to do it. Some use stalling tactics, others simply forget it at school, while others flat out refuse to get it started. For all those beleaguered parents, trying to enforce some kind of routine that won’t make homework the uphill battle it often evolves into, Rebecca Branstetter, Ph.D.,www.studentsgrow.com clinical and school psychologist. who pens Notes from the School Psychologist studentsgrow.blogspot.com for parents and teachers of children with special needs offers some helpful ideas.
- Ensure the homework workload is appropriate. In general, students should be working on 10 minutes of homework per grade level. For example, a 1st grader should have about 10 minutes of homework; a second grader should have about 20 minutes of homework, and so forth. This does not include shared book reading time, which is often about 30 minutes or more a night. If your child is spending more time on homework than this general rule of thumb, have a conversation with the teacher about the level of difficulty or workload. Tell the teacher how long it takes your child to do the work and then ask the teacher if that is typical. It is good feedback for the teacher if skills are not automatic for your child, then s/he knows what concepts to re- teach. Homework is designed to reinforce concepts, not teach new ones for the child to struggle with at home.
- Develop a homework routine. Provide a consistent workspace and time for homework. Have a discussion with your child about when and where she will be able to focus best. Some children need to be sitting with parents or siblings to get help on homework, and some children prefer to do it in their rooms in an area free of distraction. In general, homework should be done before dinner time, but there is flexibility in when they should start. Some children are still in “school mode” and like to get it done right away, some need exercise or a snack first.
- If your child complains about homework, consider developing an incentive system. Some children are motivated by a sense of completion or getting a grade back on homework, while others are not. You can set up a simple incentive system together, such as allowing a fun activity after homework is completed. This is called the “Premack Principle”: First you do X, and then you get Y. This is often sufficient to spark your child into action. Some children show more resistance, and benefit from a more elaborate system, such as earning points for doing their homework, earning bonus points for not complaining about homework, and so forth. These points are then redeemed for rewards that the family decides upon together. To prevent sibling rivalry, use the incentive system will all family members, even if the other sibling is doing his/ her homework without any issues. It never hurts to reward good homework habits.
- Do not accidently step over your bounds and end up doing your child’s homework for him or her, for the sake of getting it done. It’s better to leave items undone with a note to the teacher saying that your child did not understand the concept rather than to give the answer to your child. Ultimately, giving the answer deprives your child’s teacher of needed feedback to tailor instruction to your child’s needs.
- Check your own attitudes about homework. If you didn’t like homework when you were younger, chances are you may implicitly impart this message to your child. The messages you send about homework can be subtle. If you say, “Just get it done/over with” or “I know it’s just busy work”, you send that message to your child that homework does not have value. Instead, emphasize that homework is a way to share with you all the interesting things they have learned in school, and teaches good work habits. Praise the process, not the outcome. “I like how hard you are working on your math facts” or “Look at you working through that tricky question and not giving up!” sends a message that learning is a process, not a product.
- Acknowledge and address difficulties if homework becomes a nightly struggle.Tell your child that you can see that homework is frustrating for him/her and resolve to figure it out together. You may need to enlist the support of your child’s teacher, or the school psychologist. School sites often have student success teams in which key stakeholders get together and problem solve academic difficulties and put interventions and supports in place. Sometimes, there are after school tutoring programs, modified assignments, or additional community resources that can be tapped into to help your child.
Bottom line; set up a routine and stick to it
“I hate to keep being cliché, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Set up the rules before (if you can) or as soon as school starts. Reminding your kids that homework, studying, and going to bed on time are not ‘do you want-tos’ ? they are ‘have-tos’,” says Professor Muscari. “There are no options regarding the end results here ? they have to do their homework; they have to go to bed on time. However, you can create reasonable options within the have-tos. For example, they can choose their favorite pre bedtime relaxation method or where they do their homework. You also need to set up the rules ? and the consequences for breaking them ? ahead of time, so they know what to expect. Write them down in terms they can understand or add pictures and hang them on the refrigerator.”