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Preparing for success with upbeat back-to-school attitude

As the blissful “dog days” of summer draw to a close, families must look ahead to the structured schedule and increased pace of the school year. No more late bedtimes and pool parties that seem to last for days. It can be a hard transition, especially if a child hasn’t had the best experience in school or if it is their first time going. But some thoughtful preparation can help both the parent and child avoid stress and not be unpleasantly surprised by the first day of school.

Routine slides during the summer, so it can be tough to readjust to the rigors of the fall. But a gradual transition can help. Starting a few weeks before school begins, re-establish a school-night bedtime and earlier wake up time.

With younger kids, begin limiting their playtime and remember to have regular mealtimes. Remind independent high schoolers to be home at a reasonable hour and warn them that they can no longer sleep until noon. One idea to help kids get up is to allow them to personally pick out a new alarm clock, radio with a music alarm, or a timer that will turn on their bedside lamp in the morning. They may be more accepting of early mornings if they have a say in how they will be awakened.

Parents should take some time to think through their schedule, too. Time management is the most important skill for a successful school year, so plan well ahead of time. Organize a carpool with other parents and confirm a babysitter or daycare plans if necessary. Think through what household chores your children will be responsible for and when those will occur. Schedule slots for homework, mealtimes and bedtimes. Think through an appropriate curfew for high schoolers and discuss with them how many sports or after-school activities they can be involved in during the year. Outline the new schedule and post it somewhere where all family members can see it.

Also, think about preparing your home for what is coming. De-clutter and deep clean the major rooms of the house and have your children clean their bedrooms. Help them mark out their own space to do their homework, working together to rearrange furniture or add storage space for school supplies. It’s a good idea to create a drop zone for them to put important papers the school sends home. Establishing that space ahead of time can save a lot of headache and time spent looking for misplaced items.

Don’t forget the power of shopping to get kids looking forward to going back to school. Some new items for their wardrobe may be all they need to get excited about the transition. Start by having a fashion show where each child tries on the clothes they haven’t worn in a while. Set aside items they don’t like anymore or that no longer fit to give away or donate. Once the closet is clean, and if there is budget, perhaps they may be able to shop for some new clothes. It’s a good idea to encourage financial responsibility in this process, especially if they have earned some extra money over the summer. If they want that trendy new item all their friends will have, make a deal that they will contribute to the cost.

In the weeks leading up to the big day, talk positively about the many good aspects of a new school year. Talk about what subjects they are excited to learn about. Compliment them on the few inches they’ve grown or their new hairstyle; anything different their friends might notice. As you prepare for your child to spend more time around his peer group, be intentional about establishing good communication that will carry your relationship through the school year. Encourage your child to share any fears or concerns he might have about the transition.

For kids who may be nervous about going to school for the first time or entering a new school this year, try to help them gain confidence. Take them to the school’s open house day or schedule a visit to get a feel for the layout. Show them their classroom, where the bathrooms are, and the entrance and exit where they will be picked up. Meet the teacher if possible and separately explain their role and encourage your child to trust them.

Finally, think about planning an end-of-the-summer party. What better way to cap off the lazy days than one final pool barbecue or beach bash? Make it an event that will mark for your kids and their friends the end of the summer and the beginning of the school year. Consider inviting some of the new kids they will be going to school with in the fall to get those relationships going.

With this kind of preparation, the advent of the school year can once again be something for parents and children to celebrate.

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