As summer break begins to wind down, preparations for a new school year are gearing up. Whether it's the first day of school for your little one or your teen's last year of high school, making the transition from vacation to a daily schedule requires some pre-planning.
Typically, the most difficult changeover for everyone is getting used to a regulated bedtime routine. Getting enough sleep will help family members handle the switch better. I know that's much easier said than done, but it's worth the effort. The time to make the change is now.
As Dr. Sue recently pointed out in a kidsdr.com Daily Dose article, now is the time to get started preparing for school. "In order to try and minimize grouchy and tired children (and parents too) during those first days of school, going to bed on time will be a necessity. Working on re-adjusting betimes now will also make the transition from summer schedule to school schedule a little easier. If your children have been staying up later than usual, try pushing the bedtime back by 15 minutes each night and gradually shifting the bedtime to the "normal" hour. At the same time, especially for older children, you will need to awaken them a little earlier each day to re-set their clocks for early morning awakening."
The first day of school for kindergarteners and / or first-graders can be unsettling for the kids and the parents. Here are a few ways you can help your child face the uncertainty:
- Remind your child that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day of school. This may be at any age. Teachers know that students are nervous and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
- Point out the positive aspects of starting school. She'll see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh her positive memories about previous years, when she may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because she had a good time.
- Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your student can walk to school or ride on the bus.
- If it is a new school for your child, attend any available orientations and take an opportunity to tour the school with your child before the first day.
- If you feel it is needed, drive your child (or walk with him or her) to school and pick them up on the first day.
If your child will be riding a school bus, there are some basic safety rules to go over:
- Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.
- Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
- Make sure your child walks where she can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see her, too).
- Remind your student to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required.
- Your child should stay seated and not move around on the bus.
- If your child's school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus.
- If your child's school bus does not have lap/shoulder belts, encourage the school system to buy or lease buses with lap/shoulder belts.
Some children live close enough to their school so that they can walk. While many parents may have made the trip back and forth to school by foot when they were kids, today's children are often crossing streets that are packed with the kind of heavy traffic we never had to deal with.
In this day and age, more and more drivers are distracted by cell phone use, applying make-up, shaving, eating and basically doing a lot of other things than just driving. So it's important that parents and children take a few extra precautions:
- Make sure your child's walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
- Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school. In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a "walking school bus," in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
- Be realistic about your child's pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
- If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely.
- Bright-colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers.
Nutrition is an important factor in children doing well in school. Make sure your child has a healthy breakfast before heading out the door. Studies have shown that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches are more alert throughout the school day and earn higher grades than those who have an unhealthy diet.
Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home and/or have them posted on the school's website. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
Avoid packing lunches with empty calories such as sodas or sweets. Instead, include water or juice or purchase a milk card from the school's meal program. On lunch packing days, include your child's favorite fruits and vegetables and make sure that they have plenty of protein such as peanut butter, reduced-fat cheese, tuna, lean (non-processed) meats or poultry, or hard-boiled eggs. Hummus or black bean dip is full of filling fiber and protein.
Don't forget to keep it cold. For safety's sake, pack lunch with a reusable ice pack. Better yet, freeze a small water bottle or box of 100% juice. Your child will have a slushy drink to enjoy at lunch and won't have to worry about bringing an ice pack home.
Back-to-school- shopping, new schedule arrangements, homework time and space, inoculations, after-school sports and activities – they're all part of a new school year.
One way to help keep everyone on track is with a calendar that is placed where everyone can see it and update it.
Here's to a new school year full of learning,exciting experiences and good grades!