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Six Secrets for Back-to-School Success

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Updated on Aug 27, 2013

Many parents have buying school supplies and finding afterschool care on their back-to-school to-do list, However, there are many other ways that you can help ease the transition this fall for your child. With some planning, your family can have a smoother start to the new school year than ever before.

Want to help? Here are six secrets that will help ensure back-to-school success for your child:

Get Set on Sleep

If you’ve allowed your child to stay up late during the summer, start putting him to bed at his school year bedtime about a week before school starts. Encourage him to wake up in the morning at the same time that he will need to wake up on a school day. This gives his body a chance to adjust to going to bed earlier and getting up in time for school. Mary Alvord, a child psychologist based in Maryland, reminds parents that “Sleep deprivation can lead to physical stress. When children sleep better, they can cope better. “

Rock the Routine

Consistency and routines are very important for helping children succeed in school especially during transition times such as a new school year. Before the first day of school, write a list of the tasks that need to be completed before your family leaves the house for school each day, such as eating breakfast, brushing teeth and putting on shoes. Determine what time your family will need to wake up each day and what time you will need to leave the house. Post the list in a visible place in your house and refer to it throughout the morning routine. If your child can not yet read, you can use pictures to represent the tasks. When possible, try get as much ready for the school day the night before, such as picking out clothes, gathering papers and packing lunches.

Get Your Child New School Savvy

If your school offers a meet the teacher day, be sure to take your child to see her new classroom.  Help her walk the route to the classroom from where the bus or car will drop her off each morning. Encourage your child to ask the teacher any questions that she has. If the school does not have a set time for meeting the teacher, contact the school to see if you can come for a brief visit especially if your child is nervous about the new school year. If she will be riding the bus, visit the bus stop and talk about the plan for both the morning and afternoon ride. For kids who are walking to school this year, take a test walk of the route together and discuss any rules. If you child will be attending an after school program this year, visit the center and meet the counselors before the first day.

Pass Along Positivity

When you talk with your child about the upcoming school year, discuss any changes, such as going to a new school or riding the bus for the first time, in a positive manner. Listen to your child’s concerns, encourage him to talk through anything that is bothering him about the upcoming school year, and brainstorm about possible solutions together. For example, if your child is worried about not knowing anyone in his new class you can arrange a playdate before the first day with a neighbor who is going to be in the same class. Alvord suggests explaining that everyone worries about changes such as starting school to let them know that their concerns are normal. Alvord reminds parents that “Any anxiety that you have about the upcoming school year translates to your kids. Try not to pass it to your children.” 

Talk with the Teacher

Dorian Newburg, a first grade teacher, encourages parents to talk to the teacher about any concerns that they have such as how their child doing or any specific questions about homework. "We've seen it and heard it all before. There are no dumb questions." She also encourages parents to encourage their children to communicate with their teacher about any problems or issues that they are having at school.

Don’t Forget Downtime

While children get many benefits from participating in afterschool activities, it’s important to make sure that your kids have enough downtime during the week. Child psychologist Glen Eden says that “Children and teens say they do not spend enough time with their parents.  They want less structured activities with other children and teens and more time with their parents – just “hanging out.” He also recommends that families make dinner time a priority as often as possible.

The back to school season can be hectic and scary for kids and parents alike. However, planning ahead with these practical strategies can take the strain off what should be an exciting new beginning!

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