The author's son, Simon, was prepared for his first day of preschool last year.
Photo by Kelly Bryan Smith
Pristine marble composition books with still-stiff spines. The fragrance of freshly sharpened pencils. Embarrassingly white new school shoes. It is hard to believe that time is here again.
For many parents in the metro, your kids headed back to school last week. After the slower pace of summer vacation, you might still find it hard to get back into the school routine. What can you do to make it easier?
If you haven't already started, slowly ease into an earlier bedtime and an earlier wake-up time for your kids. Host an at-home fashion show to try on last year's school clothes and shoes, and make a list of the items that need to be replaced. And, of course, squeeze in a few more summer hurrahs before the weather turns chilly.
Have a Happier Morning
- Pack lunch bags and backpacks the night before. Calm the morning madness a bit by having healthy lunches packed and in the refrigerator, and backpacks loaded up by the front door with milk money, permission slips, summer reading books or whatever else may need to go to school that day. If your kids are old enough, start delegating some of this responsibility to them before bedtime each evening.
- Allow extra time to get ready. Kids generally don't do rushing well. My general rule is that I need to wake up about two hours before we need to leave the house, and I wake my son about an hour and a half before go time. This way, I have time to take a quick shower, have a few moments of quiet, check my email, and accomplish one or two quick things around the house. Then I have lots of time for cuddles and even a little playtime.
- Gradually increase sensory stimulation. Instead of waking my son up all at once and risking a massive meltdown, I open the door to let light in, turn off his white noise machine a few minutes later and gradually make more noise in my morning preparations until I start singing him awake or he wakes up on his own.
- Offer healthy breakfast choices. Most days my son wants raisin toast with scrambled eggs or multi-grain cereal with orange juice and fruit. If I offer just a few simple choices, then he is more likely to eat a healthy and filling meal that will last him until snack time or lunch time at school.
- Sing silly songs. One of my most successful tension diffusers at the moment is making up silly words to the tunes of familiar songs. My son is likely to get the giggles when I sing such classic tunes as "Row, Row, Row Your Pumpkin," and those giggles can help distract from struggles over using the potty, eating breakfast or getting dressed.
- Offer two clothing choices. My son is not a morning person, so I always wait until he has some food in his belly before even broaching the clothing issue. Sometimes it helps if I offer him a choice between two different favorite T-shirts to wear that day.
Handle Homework Hassles
The latest brain research describes the importance of physically switching gears before starting a new task. When your child gets home from school, encourage healthy snacking and outdoor play before asking your child to sit down and focus on schoolwork again. Boys in particular are not wired for long stretches of focused sitting time and may need extra time to unwind after the school day is over.
Neuroscientists confirm that multitasking actually diminishes productivity and brainpower. Help your child do their best by turning off the TV, turning down the radio or otherwise eliminating the environmental distractions.
Some kids benefit from working in the same space each day. Others do better with a change of scenery. Create a homework station or a moveable homework caddy with the supplies your child needs at their fingertips to do their homework with ease. Extra paper, pens and pencils, and good lighting are the most basic essentials. Depending on your child's grade in school, supplemental items such as a dictionary, drawing pencils, a compass or a clarinet may also be useful.
If your child is old enough and relatively self-sufficient, gradually encourage homework independence and wait for your child to ask for help if they need it. Otherwise, you can be in the next room folding laundry, reading a book, washing dishes, or putting together a puzzle with a younger child.
More Books to Beat the Back-to-School Blues
"I Love You All Day Long" by Francesca Rusackas (HarperCollins, 2004, $6.99)
"When I Miss You" by Cornelia Maude Spelman (Albert Whitman and Company, 2004, $6.99)
"The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn (Tanglewood Press, 2007, $12.95)