It's that time of year, again.
Superstores stocked with crayons, glue sticks, and number two pencils. We receive mailers with smiley kids wearing backpacks, and the fears and nervousness that often creep into the minds of our kids before the start of a new school year begin to surface.
But you can help squelch their concerns by beginning (or continuing) these five things.
1. Get enough Zzz
Summer is an infamous time of staying up late and sleeping in. (All those hours of daylight probably have something to do with it.) If your bedtime schedule is lax -start now to get back on track. For young children, it's best to transition back to a school-friendly sleeping schedule in 15-minute increments per week. Your well-rested child will thank you with an increase in alertness and a decrease in frustration when the school bell rings.
2. Get back into routines
Most people resist change - and kids are no different. Instead of a cold-turkey approach to end the fun and frivolity of summer, ease your kids back into routine and structure. This is especially important with the waking up time (see number 1) and resuming homework. So, begin now. When your kids would typically be doing homework is the time you can schedule the mandatory "back to the barracks" where your kids do age-appropriate "homework." This could include: practice writing letters, reading, or even age-appropriate worksheets. This "homework" time could be as short as 30 minutes or as long as one hour. Brace yourself - you will likely get resistance. But a little time on the front end may save you from hearing the usual chorus of: Do I have to do my homework?
3. Make a plan for organizing
Instead of the annual paper pile up (that makes you consider the virtues of origami) as well as the shoes and backpacks near the entry (that everyone trips on) setup a meeting with your kids now. Talk through where they will put their backpack and shoes when they get home. Have your kids commit now to that location, and ask them what their consequence should be if they don't follow through. Consider a container for kids to place the papers that need to be signed and handouts for you to read. If you're not using a calendar, consider printing one for each of your kids. They can use it to write due dates, test dates, scheduled extracurricular activities (dance class or soccer practice) and such. This will help teach your kids responsibility and will help prevent the last minute report blitz.
4. Be a resource for your kids
Many kids and teens get nervous about going back to school because of all the unknowns. Who will be my teacher? What will my classroom look like? And for older students, will I be able to find my classes?
Take advantage of registration days by giving your child ample time to explore his school and ask questions. Ask your kids if there are any questions you can answer. Are there any kids in the neighborhood they would like to talk to about transitioning to junior high or high school. Help them feel in charge of problem solving. Ask them questions and act more like a problem-solving concierge to help your kids develop confidence in coming up with solutions. Additionally, instead of sending kids back to school unrehearsed, consider some impromptu role playing to work out their worries. (Car time is especially handy for this.)
For example, one frequent worry for kids relates to making friends. For a child unsure about how to make new friends: practice giving compliments, teach him to notice things about the environment that he can talk about, rehearse easy ways to introduce himself, and even help him to know some questions he can ask to drum-up conversation with peers.
5. Spend 10 minutes daily with each child
You may read this and think: There is no way! But start now and find a way to spend 10 minutes of one-on-one time with each child. This system developed by Amy McCreadyhas almost immediate positive results in your child's behavior. Here's how it works:
Set a designated time. If possible, keep the time the same every day and ask your child, "What are we going to do today for our time together?" Let her decide what to do - not you telling her - is an important part of this bonding time. Fun tip: Come up with your own fun name for this time. Some of my favorites include Pow-wow, You and Me time, and Soul time.
Set the timer for ten minutes. When the buzzer goes off, give your child a hug, kiss, or knucks and tell him thank you for your time together. (Note: for younger children this will most likely be playing with toys. For older kids or teens, this may be playing a video game, searching iTunes for music, or even finding fun things to pin on Pinterest.)
So start now. In just a few methodical steps, you can help your kids feel like their first day of school is more of the same good stuff they've been getting used to-and less like the first day of school.