Transitioning from a laid back summer to a tight-scheduled school year can be stressful for kids as well as parents. Here are 5 great tips to minimize back to school chaos and get your family ready for the first day of school.
1. Clean and declutter. Messy and cluttered is no way to start the school year. Before the school year begins, get the entire family on board to tidy up the house. Go through clothing and get rid of outgrown threads. Make sure to define and clean up a study area for each child. During the school year, be careful not to accumulate clutter. Keeping separate folders for school announcements, tests and homework can help keep clutter to a minimum. Be sure to trash papers as they become outdated.
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2. Keep one calendar. It’s important for busy families to keep an up-to-date family calendar. It’s even more important to have only one calendar. If you have more than one calendar, you run the risk of “double booking” yourself. Make sure to list both personal and school activities on the calendar. It’s also a good idea to color-code your calendar by similar activities. For example, mark tests in red, recreational activities in green and chores in blue. Being able to look at a calendar and know exactly where everyone is at a given moment can greatly reduce stress for everyone. Be sure to post the family calendar where everyone can see it like next to the refrigerator.
3. Mark your student planner. Older students should use a student planner with dividers and planning calendars to keep track of test dates, homework and afterschool activities. Older students should also keep a “to do list” for the following day. If you spend 15 minutes a day preparing a “to do list” for the following day with your child, its will reduce stress by giving your child a better understanding of what is expected and what needs to be done.
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4. Gather materials. After you’ve cleaned and organized your home make a list of everything needed for the upcoming year. Teachers often have specific materials required for the year, from three-ring binders to tissue boxes, so make sure to ask for a supply list. Buy extras of essential items like paper, pencils and erasers to store for later use. Go shopping for supplies ahead of time to get your child excited for the year to come. Back-to-school sales usually begin mid-July so start shopping then – don’t run the risk of stores being out of stock come September.
5. Donate or dump. Once your school supplies have been taken care of you can move on to the ever important “school wardrobe.” Designate one day to assessing each child’s clothing needs. Go through each child’s clothes and donate clothes that they have outgrown and toss clothes that are worn-out. Make a list of clothing you’ll need to purchase. Check for hand-me-downs from older siblings as you clean out the drawers. Before hitting the stores, sit each child down to discuss what is needed and what your budget allows. This will lessen the in-store tantrums.
6. Check your paperwork. Some schools require immunization records, birth certificates and even report cards from the previous year. If your child is a student athlete, you’ll need a doctor’s note stating your child has met physical requirements. Avoid the last minute “mad-dash” for documents by gathering and organizing them in folders ahead of time.
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7. Get into routine. Groggy and out-of-synch is no way to start a new school year! A few weeks before school starts, get your child into a school sleep schedule. Make sure they go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Adjusting your child to school hours beforehand will better prepare her both mentally and physically. A simple way to make waking up early a positive, take your child shopping for a new alarm clock and set it together each night.
8. Practice makes perfect. For kids starting kindergarten, have a practice school day. Get them up, dressed, fed and in the car in a timely manner. Make sure you visit the school and set up a time to meet with teachers and other staff that will come in contact with your child during the school day.
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9. Keep it cool. Don’t let your child’s nervousness escalate. Even if you’re having a hard time with separation anxiety, try not to let it show- Your child will pick up on your feelings. Maintain a positive attitude and assure your child that school will be a great experience. Make sure to remind your child you’ll see her after school to discuss all the fun things she did that day at school.
10. Enjoy each new school year with your child. Set aside a time each day to discuss all the new and exciting things your child learned at school that day; Make sure to ask about extracurricular activities as well. When you show enthusiasm about learning, your child will do the same.
Brittany L. Morgan is the editorial assistant at Hudson Valley Parent magazine.