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new school year

Counting Down to the New Year

Posted by Karla Belzer - Parenting

A current commercial equates the beginning of a new school year with the New Year's Eve – complete with exuberant counting down to the "new year". The school bell rings when the countdown is over, signaling the start of the new year. In many ways, both parents and kids anticipate the start of a new school year much like a new year in general. There is excitement and anticipation with new things to learn, new teachers, new supplies, new adventures and new opportunities.

Even so, after the relaxing, lazy days of summer, many families have difficulty in transitioning back to school. As exciting as this time of year may be, it can also be quite challenging. Children and parents have grown accustomed to the laid-back routines of summer and the shock of returning to school year routines can be similar to jumping into the deep end of an ice cold pool on a hot summer day.

This month, the Family Files blog will feature posts related to back to school to help your family transition from summer to school.

In the spirit of starting a new year, here is a brief countdown of tips to help your family get back to school:

10 - Plan and prepare. Returning to school brings forth many changes for families. It is important to prepare your child for any changes in their routine, physical environment, or schedule. Talk with your child about the school, her classroom, or what drop off/pick up will be like. Attend a back to school night at the school and meet your child's teacher if you can. Returning to school can also bring about anxious feelings. Talk with your child about new experiences and traditions – do all that you can to ensure that she is comfortable with the school routine and environment.

9 - Build confidence. As school resumes, your child may find himself responsible for new and different things. He may be moving into a grade where he'll be responsible for his own books and supplies or even managing himself between class periods. Help your child learn these skills that they will soon be putting into practice. Reinforce his independence by talking about the responsibilities he will have once the school bell rings.

8 – Develop a positive relationship. As a parent, you are the expert of and advocate for your child. Develop a rapport and positive communication with your child's teachers and school administrators. Introduce yourself and meet with your child's teacher to discuss her strengths and challenges. Setting a positive tone can be a real benefit if challenging situations occur.

7 – Slide back into routines. Transitioning from the care-free days and late nights of summer can be difficult for some children. Get back into the school day rhythm by adjusting bedtimes in small increments of 10 minutes each night until your child is at the desired school night bedtime. It may be helpful to have your child start his morning routine as well. Have him wake and get dressed and ready for the day in small increments each morning until he is waking at the desired time. You can also adjust mealtimes to replicate when your child would be eating on a normal school day.  Check back to the Family Files blog later this month for a specific post on getting back into the school routine.

6 – Shop smart. As back to school approaches, parents can be overwhelmed and inundated with school supply lists and sale ad flyers. To save your sanity and some cash, check out an earlier post on the Family Files blog about shopping smart.

5 – Keep it positive. Instead of counting down (and dreading) the return of school and end of summer, focus on the present moment and keep a positive attitude about what is left of summer. Countdown how many days of summer are left and make the most of them. You can also plan fun activities to help the transition. For instance, you can take your children out for a treat or to their favorite park at the close of the first school day. Another option is to plan a fun Labor Day weekend if your school starts prior to the holiday. Plan intentional activities to bid farewell to summer and warmly welcome the new school year. You may even end up creating annual traditions that hold special meaning for you and your child.  You may find this blog post helpful with savoring sweet summer memories.

4 – Create a launch pad. Assess your home environment for school readiness. Is there a place for book bags, homework, and lunch boxes to be stored at the end of the school day? Having a regular place to store school items helps a child take responsibility for them and can eliminate or reduce stress in the morning mad dash to get out the door. If it helps, lay out school and work clothes for the next day in the evening. Establishing a morning routine and having needed items in place can create a peaceful morning for all and launch both parents and children into a successful day.

3 – Be homework ready. Back to school means back to work for many children – specifically in the area of homework. Create a daily routine of when and where your child completes his homework and try to stick to that time and place every day. It is also helpful if you are available to assist with or check on homework progress while your child is working.

2 – Go outside. Children often spend more time outdoors in the summer over any other time of the year. Having to sit inside in class all day can leave children restless and longing for the great outdoors and fond summer memories. Create a daily routine of going outside as a family after school or in the evening. Take a family walk or a bike ride. Getting outside and connecting with nature is good for the body, soul, and mind.

1 – Spend time together. As difficult as it may be with hectic schedules and after school activities, strive to spend time together as a family. As little as 15 minutes per day can help your child feel connected to you and the family unit. Provide your child with your undivided attention and strive to connect every single day. Whether you play toys with your preschooler, work a puzzle with your second grader, or work an art project with your oldest, you both will benefit from spending the extra time together.


Your turn: What are your helpful hints for transitioning back to school? Leave your responses in the comments.

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