10 Tips to Start School on the Right Foot

10 steps to start off on the right footAre you starting to worry your sandy, chlorine soaked, sun-drenched child won’t be able to transition from summer independence to a more structured school environment? I am. My five year olds look at me like I am speaking another language when I say, “Bedtime.” My ten year old completely forgot how to tell time, and stared at the clock for a good minute before she shrugged and walked away. I guess time has stopped mattering. It only gets worse for the older two, who have transformed over the last couple months into a strange combination of sloth, flower child and Joey Tribbiani.

I have two choices. Let them roll into school on the first day unfocused, exhausted and confused, and hope first impressions aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Or, take some steps now to prepare them for the first day, and pray I’m not too late.

  1. Sleep – Start with the most basic of human needs. Get your kids back on a sleep schedule, so real life doesn’t come as such a shock.
  2. Reintroduce Healthy Foods – A poor diet leads to fatigue, illness and poor focus. Phase out of a summer diet of hot dogs, ice cream and soggy corn chips. Phase in more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  3. Get Organized – Clean out drawers, desks and backpacks. Replace summer stuff and clutter with school stuff and cleanliness. Organized surroundings have been shown to organize thoughts.
  4. Set Realistic Goals – Sit down with your child and make a list of what he or she wants to accomplish during this school year, both academically and socially. It is easier to be at the starting line with a clear visual of the finish line.
  5. Do not overschedule. The emails are already pouring in with extracurricular options for my kids. Take a deep breath. Before you say, “That looks like fun,” and hand over your credit card information, break out a calendar and some common sense. A successful school year is dependent not just on enrichment opportunities, but on homework time and free time.
  6. Set up a homework space in your home. Even in a small house or apartment, it is important to have a space reserved for homework.
  7. Wean electronics and screen time. If your little kids have been glued to the TV and your big kids to their Instagram account, start setting some rules about screen time. Like any addiction, stopping cold turkey is very difficult, and the distractions of phones, computers and TVs can be detrimental to studying, attention skills and stress reduction. Studies show even a few days away from screens can be beneficial.
  8. Address your concerns immediately. If you are worried about your child’s behavior or abilities, speak to his or her teacher. With about 20 kids in a class, you cannot expect a teacher to recognize each student’s struggles in the first few weeks. You will be helping your child and the teacher if you simply come clean about his or her shortcomings. She will figure out you don’t have a perfect child at some point anyway.
  9. Discuss peer interaction. As soon as you know who is in the class, ask your child who are his friends and who may be a distraction. Help him understand some kids are great for the playground, but not so great for the classroom. Teach him some socially acceptable techniques to separate from distracting kids.
  10. Teach by example. I love summer, and reentry is very difficult for me. There are usually tears and wailing involved. Most years my kids have to console me, which is obviously not ideal. I am going to try very hard this year to fake it, and help them approach the school year enthusiastically. I know my reactions rub off on my kids. It will take an Oscar winning performance to welcome this school year with open arms, but I’m going to give it a shot. I will just have to cry into my wineglass when they aren’t around.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Physician, Wellness Coach, and founder of Tips From Town. She is passionate about sharing her medical expertise, her coaching techniques and her parenting experience to encourage happier and healthier lives.

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