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“Back to School”: Parental Tips for a Great Start!


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It’s school time again! It’s a time for a lot of preparations; a change to a more organized routine; an exciting time for many kids; and perhaps a stressful period for some parents and even some children. It could be a challenging task, at first, for kids to switch gears from a fun filled vacation to school learning again, but parents can play a major role in getting their children prepared for yet another milestone in their developmental journey. i have addressed many questions parents have at the beginning of yet another academic year for “Parenting Family Magazine”. Keep reading if you’re interested.

How can parents motivate their kids about school beginning again?

After a long summer vacation, kids need to be “psyched” up to get back in the “zone” of learning and academic achievement. They need to re-adjust to new sleeping times, meals, and, all in all fit back, to a more structured life style. It’s not surprising to find many kids resenting the start of school again. Parents may need to have a planned talk about the benefits of going back to school and bring to the spotlight the good things about schooling. Parents can emphasize to their kids:

–          Going up one level and becoming closer to being adults.

–          New learning experiences and knowledge that increases their information tank.

–          How their brains are developing and becoming more efficient to analyze and store information.

–          The privilege they have compared to those who cannot afford a good education.

–          Having new teachers and making new friends.

–          Events to look forward to, like: science fairs, competition, dances or shows, etc…

–          Getting organized again (and make setting structures for the new routines more like a game).

–          Still having some time to play and have fun in allocated times.

But kids will have less free time. How can parents overcome the kids’ nagging to have “play time”?

It’s true that kids get very restricted with respect to “play time” – which is one of their basic needs – but parents can make the new phase more interesting by engaging their kids in doing things that seem like play whenever there’s a chance. Parents can normalize the “school time” phase as part of life by talking more about the benefits mentioned before. They can, also, get more engaged with their kids and stress things like:

–          Buying new school goodies with the child (e.g. bag, lunch box, stationery, etc…). Take the child to actually choose and buy the necessities.

–          Spread the new school supplies in the child’s working area and make it exciting to use these in variations to initially help kids be back on track as they do their homework.

–          In the mornings, do a friendly race between them and you, or other siblings on getting ready. Whoever wins gets extra “play time” or other rewards. Make mornings fun.

–          Dangle the carrot always for “play time” (i.e. specify breaks after finishing up some assignments).

–          Get them involved in school activities if available, or other outside school activities.

–          Teach them how to make new friends and participate in dong that by inviting friends over to the house, or other activities.

–          Stress that there will be short breaks and vacations, in time, to catch up with more free or “play time”; and plan special activities for those periods.

Aren’t school routines boring and restrictive to kids?

Not all routines are bad; and of course kids will complain at first, but deep inside you’ll find them settling down after a somewhat chaotic summers. For children, having a clear routine to follow enables them have structure in their lives; and that in and of itself is beneficial to both parent and child. It helps set a platform of better control and certainty of what’s coming next, without which stress may ensue. Parents, therefore, need to set expectations for the new timing of different activities; and from the beginning be clear on the new seasonal routines, like: meals, bed time, study hours, play hours, activities, and weekend schedules.

How can parents comfort anxious kids about school starting again?

Yes, not all kids are excited about a new school year especially first timers and those with parental attachment issues. It’s all about parents gradually letting go; and kids gradually feeling secure again in a new environment. Children can explicitly state their reluctance to go, or implicitly convey that anxiety (e.g. being tearful, becoming sick with stomach ache or headache). Parents need to:

–          Encourage having an open dialogue with their kids and calm their worries by talking it out and giving assurances.

–          Ask kids what would help them be more relaxed and secure.

–          Boost their confidence that they will manage on their own at school.

–          Demonstrate actually being there for the kids at promised times both at school and at home until they ease up.

–          Discuss with kids good things that happened in school upon their return.

Sleep regulation may be the toughest to handle. What are the recommendations for healthy sleep patterns?

It would be ideal for parents to shift the sleeping clock gradually before school starts to avoid any shock to their biological system. During school times, weekends should not be set free of the time restriction. A delay of one hour can be acceptable, but not more or else, the child will have cranky feeling on Mondays. Few tips about that may be:

–          For younger kids, an hour to unwind and get ready to bed is needed (i.e. to give time to shower, get dressed, bed-time story, etc….).

–          Pre-school and elementary students need an average of 12 hours sleep a day.

–          Teenagers and high-schoolers need an average of 8 hours sleep a day, but end up falling short of that due to assignments and exams.

–          Keep stressing how mood and academic performance get negatively affected with sleep deprivation.

How involved should parents be with their kids’ finalizing their homework?

Well, that depends on the child’s age. Parents get very involved perhaps till grade 5 after which they need to start letting go gradually. Children need to learn to take initiative and responsibility in doing their own homework without aid. Parents may remain a “point of reference” at all times and only when necessary. Some parents do more harm than good by being over-involved in finalizing their child’s work. Over-involvement results in the child being dependent on others when what the child really needs is to become progressively autonomous and build their confidence. Up until grade seven, parents may need to check on their child’s work daily; after which just the physical presence of the parent can be of great help to monitor progress from a distance. Even if kids become independent in doing their school work, it’s better if parents maintained daily interest and inquired about any challenges, deadlines, and other concerns.

Are there any other tips to make it a great new school year?

School beginning again can be physically and psychologically taxing for parents. Parents can become edgy and overwhelmed by too many preparations. If parents forget to attend to their own needs, they cannot expend the energy required to guide and relax their kids. It’s not about being physically present around the kids. It’s about the quality time spent with those kids. Quality time entails:

–          Maintain the channel of communication open (avoid dictating orders and advice giving all the time).

–          Encourage kids to think of solutions for their problems

–          Do fun activities even in the confinements of the home.

–          Show care, love, and praise their good qualities

Simple things like these require a clear mind and a lot of energy. Parents need to make sure to allow themselves the time to relax and “recharge their batteries”. This helps them satisfy their kids’ needs. A stressed out parent results in a stressed out kid. If parents keep boosting the child’s confidence in his/her abilities, the child will definitely succeed as adult. Isn’t that what all parents aspire for their children?

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