Moving from the unstructured days of summer to the more scheduled days of the school year can quickly become the source of some parenting stress. There are some things, though, that can be done to prepare your child for the new school year. Here are some ideas to help ease this transition:
1) Slowly adjust the hour when your child goes to sleep and the time when he wakes up in the morning. Each night, get your child ready for bed a few minutes earlier so that he/she will gradually ease into the school year bedtime, which many professionals recommend to be sometime between 8:00 and 8:30. If you haven't already done so, create a bedtime routine, including bathing, selecting clothes for the next day and reading. As you ease your child into an earlier bedtime, adjust his/her waking time accordingly. You may want to introduce the use of an alarm clock to help promote independent waking.
2) To help transition toward a more structured day, you can help your child select a few of his/her favorite television programs. Limit viewing to these shows. Video games and computer time should also be cut back to smaller increments, such as thirty to forty minutes per day. Encourage your children to find other amusements, such as playing outside, board games, building activities, gardening, swimming, skating, biking, imaginary play, arts and crafts, writing or reading. You may need to assist him/her by giving choices or inviting playmates over to participate in some of these activities.
3) Schedule weekly family activities by choosing one day each week to visit the public library or bookstore, swim in the neighborhood pool, play in the park or school playground or explore local museums.
4) To prepare for the academics that lie ahead, purchase an inexpensive spiral bound notebook, or staple several sheets of blank paper together, to create a journal for your child. Encourage him/her to write in it each day using his/her own words, pictures and ideas. Help with spelling if asked, but try to encourage independent writing as much as possible. If your child needs help coming up with an idea for a topic, remind your child of things done in the past or give a sentence starter such as "I like ______ ."
5) In addition to journal writing, review letter names and sounds with your child. If your child is able to read, acquire books that are at his/her reading level from the bookstore, public library or friends. Encourage your child to practice reading skills daily. If you don't already do so, spend at least fifteen minutes each day reading aloud to your child. Even if your child is older, spend time reading the newspaper or other books together. Number recognition and simple addition are some math concepts that you can review with your child, too.
Regardless of the age and grade of your children, stay involved. Volunteering on any level, whether it be reading stories to your elementary aged child’s second grade class, helping in the computer lab in middle school, or being on a committee for peer counseling in high school, it is important to know what is happening at the place your children spend a large part of their week. With so many parents working, many Parent Teacher Associations have their meetings in the evening, so more parents can attend. There are activities that need volunteers that do not involve daytime hours such as calling parents in the evening for a fundraiser or helping with a weekend car wash at high school.
These tips can help your children get back to school the right way and prepare them for a year of learning and fun.