As the summer winds down, summer camps are coming to an end, and the last family trip has been taken, parents must now begin to prepare their children for returning to school. For parents back to school preparation means more than buying a new book bag, it means encouraging their children to start the academic year on a positive note, helping young children reconnect with old friends by arranging play dates, equipping children with the necessary supplies, resources and tools to get the work done, and establishing a positive communicative relationship with their children’s teacher and school to avert potential problems in the future.
To make this process simple and stress free for parents, here are a few tips and suggestions parents should consider.
• It’s important to take advantage of all of the back to school deals that are being pushed by retailers. If your state offers a tax free “back to school week”, take advantage of it by stocking up on supplies such as notebooks, paper, pens, pencils, folders, computer paper and toner, USB disks, binders, scissors, crayons, markers, glue, and Kleenex to save money. Once the back to school rush has ended, typically these items go back to regular price and can put a dent in your pocketbook if you need to purchase a large quantity later. Unused items can be saved for the next school year which can reduce next year’s back to school costs.
• Getting organized is one piece of advice that cannot be over emphasized. While parents are shopping for back to school supplies, it’s important to purchase items that will help keep their children organized. All too often children lose homework; forget about tests and projects, which can negatively affect their grades. Most schools provide their child with a daily planner; however, purchasing a large dry erase family calendar that could be placed in a central location, is important because it can remind parents and students of tests, after school activities, events, trips, and deadlines that are coming up. Creating an in and out folder system is important so parents don’t forget to sign permission slips for their children to attend school sanctioned events, and children don’t forget to return the permission slips.
• Consider purchasing a desk or sectioning off a portion of the dining room table to create a quiet study area free from clutter, noise from the TV, radio, and foot traffic. This should be used as your child’s study area. Discourage your child from doing their homework on the couch or in their bed which could entice more sleep than study.
• One of the most exciting things about returning to school is wearing new clothes and shoes. Parents should check the school’s dress code policy to ensure they are buying appropriate clothing for their child. Parents also consider buying extra uniform clothes (khaki or dark pants, solid polo shirt) especially if they know their child can wear out clothes and shoes very easily.
• One week before the first day of school, parents should slowly transition their children from a summer schedule of staying up late and sleeping in to their school night schedule. The week before school commences, parents should start having the child go to bed one hour early each night until they reach their bed time. Also, parents should implement the same routine for waking up in the morning to ensure their child gets up at the correct time. Older children and teens should be responsible for waking themselves up in the morning. These sleep routines should be strictly adhered to because a child who is tired is likely to be inattentive, miss out on pertinent school lessons, and more irritable than a child who has received an adequate amount of sleep.
Back to school preparation can also be an exciting time for children because it represents a fresh start – a chance for students to earn better grades, learn new things, meet new friends, join a varsity sports team, and to have an overall better year than they had last school year. This time can also be full of anxiety and trepidation for some children who realize they are returning to class with students who bullied, taunted or teased them for being different. Parents play an important role in helping to emotionally prepare their children for the joys and pains of returning to school.
Here are a few pieces of advice that parents should consider when their children are anxious about returning to school.
• Inform middle schoolers, freshman, or students new to a school that it’s normal to be anxious when starting a new school. Encourage your child to visit the school before the first day of classes so they can familiarize themselves with the layout. Encourage them to walk the halls to find their classes, their locker and other pertinent places in the building (cafeteria, main office, and nurse’s room).
• Many students are anxious about attending a new school often because they don’t know anyone there. Utilize role-playing to teach your child social skills to lessen their anxiety about making new friends. For example, teacher your child how to introduce themselves to someone and how to find commonalities between themselves and peers they like. Encourage your child to join clubs or afterschool activities, and to invite friends over to their home to hangout.
• Help your children learn how to stand up to bullies in a healthy way that is void of verbal and physical aggression. Teach them strategies to ignore the bully, walk away when they are being taunted, or to seek out the assistance of a respected teacher, psychologist or school social worker to help mediate or resolve the conflict.
Lastly, encourage your child to do their best, rather than pressure your child to be the best or smartest student. Many parents who apply this undue pressure can cause children to become perfectionists or anxious children who worry more about earning an “A” versus appreciating and enjoying the learning process.