Guest opinion: Plan for your family's best back-to-school time

2014-08-25T00:00:00Z Guest opinion: Plan for your family's best back-to-school timeBy JANINE PEASE The Billings Gazette
August 25, 2014 12:00 am  • 

It is time to prepare our families for that first day and week of the school year. This point on the calendar requires serious effort to transition from the lazy days of summer to the highly scheduled school year routine. From my view, it is an instance of great excitement and new beginnings. Here in my household, we are doing our best to make a smooth transition from summertime to school time. Tips for this transition time provide families some valuable direction (WebMD, Education.com and pbs.org).

Joanne Barker of WebMD suggests:

- Make the transition a family affair; all members must establish school year routines. Practice getting up, dressed and ready — almost like a fire drill. A family plan for the school day morning’s activities should be made a week before the first day of school.

- Each school kid needs an individual plan to organize materials and supplies for school, and look forward to homework assignments. Parents should talk with each child to set responsibilities for getting up, dressing in appropriate clothes, and looking after belongings.

- A launch pad should be designated for each school child: a place for backpacks, coats, lunch boxes and other materials needed for the school day. The launch pad brings down the morning chaos of lost jackets, last-minute search and seizures, and more importantly, lessens the stress on kids and parents. (See http://webmD.com/parenting/family-health-12/back-to-school-prep/html).

Antidote for chaos

Child psychologist Cat Eden advises that organization is the antidote for back to school confusion and chaos. School clothes need to be laid out the night before, in consultation with the child. Each evening should include thinking through morning tasks that prepare for the school day.

Families can set up rewards for school mornings well done; perhaps a Saturday outing or a trip to the ice cream shop. Eden recommends that families schedule an evening reading time, to help kids refocus on academic activities. Waking and sleeping times need to be reset to help kids adjust to the school time schedule. Finally, a quiet, well lit and well supplied homework center should be set up. (See www.education.com/video/back-to-school-tips/ for a back to school video series).

PBS author Bethany Hardy, a mom from Washington, D. C., advocates that “families take steps to anticipate and address the child’s anxiety from going back to school.” Parent-to-kid talks can bring down stress about the new experiences, teachers, classmates, facilities and the step into the next grade level. While parents may be happy to see school start, they may also convey their own stress to their children, and add to their child’s stress. Rehearsal or practices of the school day schedule can minimize the morning rush on the actual first day and first week.

Upgrade family meals

Tina Fiegal, a parenting coach, recommends swapping out the summertime ice cream and fast foods, with eating three square meals a day, and treats like yogurt smoothies and healthy snacks. One-on-one time with each kid of 15 minutes every day provides parent/child enjoyment, like star-gazing in the backyard, reading a favorite book or visiting about summertime memories. (See www.pbs.org/parents/education/going-to-school/back-to-school/).

Getting ready for school is more than getting the school kids ready with new clothes and school supplies. This transition demands the entire family’s attention to adjusted schedules and individual responsibilities.

Bedtime and morning routines need to be redone, and a launching pad must be assembled to prepare each child with materials, supplies and a backpack, appropriate to a successful school day. Taking a week or so for gradual body clock retooling, talking through responsibilities, and anticipating the new school, classroom, teachers and classmates with optimism, are all ingredients that bring back-to-school anxiety down to a minimum.

Making an effective and successful transition from summertime to school time requires family planning, rehearsal and then performance. Each school child and the whole family will benefit from back to school preparation well done.

Janine Pease teaches at Little Bighorn College in Crow Agency. She previously served on the Montana Board of Regents and the faculty of Rocky Mountain College. A member of the Crow Tribe, Pease holds master's and doctoral degrees in adult education from Montana State University.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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