As the summer winds down with its lackadaisical lifestyle, families gear up to return to the more regimented school year. Gone are the options of sleeping in, or late night TV binging. The excitement of a new school year places stress on both children and parents. Getting off to a positive start requires good communication with your kids. Take the time to explain how life will change with the challenges of the new school year. Exert your role as a parent with a review of the house rules to make life easier on everyone.
- For starters, reinforce the importance of a school year bedtime rule. Rested children concentrate better and will benefit from a structured schedule. Where can parents go for advice on how much sleep is ideal? Try the National Sleep Foundation or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web sites. School aged children need 9-11 hours of sleep per night. This includes teenagers who need about 10 hours of sleep to function ideally.
- Try to use the weekends to prepare for the upcoming school week. Wash and hang uniforms for the coming school days. Do what you can in advance to shop and prepare healthy food for the week. Make school days less stressful with long-lasting staples for refrigerated storage such as green salads, chicken salads, and other quick and economical items to get your family through each day of the week. Stock up on healthy breakfast foods such as whole grain cereals, bread, and fruit because children who eat breakfast perform better at school.
- Set a time and create a quiet place in your residence for homework. If your child is enrolled in an extended day program or after-school center, talk to the management about its role in assisting with homework. These supplemental programs can help tremendously in guiding your child to complete homework. However, be prepared to take an active role in checking your child’s homework efforts. This helps open communication about your child’s current learning topics and gives you a means to reinforce the learning with your insights and input.
- Maintain a family calendar. Use an online calendar suitable to everyone’s phone or set up an old-school, large paper calendar (still available at most office supply stores). As activities and commitments rapidly multiply during the school year, a calendar saves your sanity.
- Take care not to overcommit in extracurricular, after-school activities. Discuss priorities with your children and let them know that the time commitment and expense of activities is limited. Working parents, with multiple children, can quickly become overwhelmed with too many commitments and not enough time, energy, or resources. Everyone suffers when activities originally intended to be enjoyable, become exhausting and a source of contention.
Steel yourself for the regiment ahead and all will be well. The best-supported children have parents with a plan. A nice bonus publication is available from the United States Department of Education called School Success: A month-by-month guide filled with the advice, tools and online resources you will need to help your children have a school year packed with fun and learning. This downloadable file contains greater organizational tips for a successful school year.