As the lazy, hazy days of summer melt away like a popsicle on the hot pavement, family thoughts turn to the approach of the school year. While many parents eagerly anticipate the return to the structure of the academic year, children may be experiencing a wide array of feelings from excitement to dread. How can we best prepare children to resume the rhythm of their school-year lives?
It is helpful to think about readying the body and readying the brain. Many children have had relaxed bed times during the summer and, in spite of the summer reading requirements, many children have had a “formal study hiatus.” These tips may help your child to start his or her new grade level in the best way:
1. Practice good sleep hygiene about two weeks before the school year resumes.
Try getting your child up a bit earlier each day until the school-year awakening time is achieved. This may require having your child turn in a bit earlier each night, tired or not. And, it is useful to establish a “wind-down” routine each night. This routine should incorporate activities designed to relax and should avoid activities that are over-stimulating. Children should be discouraged from engaging in cognitively stimulating behavior, even reading, in bed. Also, the blue light from device screens should be avoided for at least two hours before bed as should heavy exercise.
2. Convey an excitement about learning.
Create dinner conversations about things you are interested in learning yourself as well as about things your children will be learning. Incorporate into your chats information related to the curriculum your child will be studying. If she is going to studying ancient Greece, watch a TV show together about the Trojan War.
3. Set your household up for success.
Avoid over-booking your family for events during the month of September. Your child will be able to establish a better school-life balance if your family is not too busy in the first weeks back to routine. Establish organizational schemes such as where the bookbag will go each night (fully packed for the next day), where instruments will be stored, where gym clothes go, etc. to facilitate ease in managing materials.
4. Ritualize the rite of passage.
Taking a picture by the same tree each year or putting a “wish for the year” on a piece of paper that gets stored now and revealed at year’s end can add a positive importance to the beginning of the year. Model calm confidence in your child’s ability to adjust to the “new” and, also, that a new year is a reason to celebrate!
— By Katherine B. Howard, MA, NCSP, LPC, Old Trail School Psychologist. For more information, go to oldtrail.org or visit the school: Drop In is Sunday, October 8 from 1-3 p.m.; Open House is Sunday, November 12 from 1-3 p.m.