As summer comes to an end and back-to-school season begins, it can be hard to get back into a regular schedule — both for kids and adults. To make the best of the summer-to-school transition, the Defender has compiled some tips on how parents can avoid being overwhelmed in the coming weeks.
- 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. Visit cultural attractions like museums to shift their brains 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 for elementary school kids and preschoolers. 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. There will be open houses, orientations, and other meet-and-greet options at the beginning of the school year, but none will give you the chance to spend some quality time getting to know your kids’ teachers. Try to find a few minutes before or after school to connect one-on-one with the teachers. If your school hosts an open house, be sure to go. Familiarizing your child with her environment will help her avoid a nervous stomach on the first day. Together you can meet her 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 an urgent care. Most schools require a physical examination before the sport season starts and signed consent forms from parents. The form is online and available at most pediatrician’s office. If a parent isn’t able to squeeze in an appointment with his or her child’s pediatrician (or the doctor is booked), 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.
On a budget
While many parents know to use Tax-Free Weekend (Aug 11-13) to take advantage of annual back-to-school specials on supplies, here are a few other tips to keep your money on track as you head back to school.
- Take inventory. There’s always that endless supply of makers, crayons and notebooks around the house. Reusing these items can save hundreds of dollars over the years. Consider repackaging, sharpening, and cleaning out older, gently used items before purchasing new ones.
- Look for the deals. Some retailers’ back-to-school specials are available for online and in-store purchase. Many retailers provide online only offers and ship to store services. Oftentimes, retailers advertise special buy-one-get-one-free or gift with purchase deals.
- Set a budget. Decide how much you are willing to spend per child, and include your children for a “teachable moment” by creating a budget. After taking inventory, create a shopping list and stick to it. This will help you avoid costly impulse purchases as well as ensure nothing is forgotten.
- Know what your child’s school allows. Schools will often provide parents with a list of required items for the school year which can help determine what needs to be purchased. These lists are also available at many retail stores and on school websites. Additionally, many schools have specific dress codes, so keep these restrictions in mind before spending money on clothes the school may not allow.
- Buy in bulk. While it may be tempting to buy that pre-packaged pack of apples or grapes, buying snacks in bunches like bags of grapes can be easily added to lunches. Also consider buying reusable sports bottles to increase your child’s water consumption during the day.