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Preparing Children and Adolescents to Go Back to School
Parents and guardians face a tough challenge at the end of summer or extended time off – how do they help their children to switch to back-to-school mode? How can parents get spoiled kids who have been partying all night and sleeping all day to start thinking about school?
Parents may be merrily skipping down the aisles of a store during back-to-school shopping at the thought of getting their kids off their hands, but the kids are probably dragging their feet. There are some things that parents or guardians can do to make the transition to school easier.
Adjust their sleep cycles
After a long period of late nights and sleeping in, parents can gradually put back bedtimes a half hour to help their kids adjust to waking up earlier for school. The Mayo Clinic estimates that 30 to 50 percent of kids are not able to asleep well. There are several ways to promote a good night's sleep:
- Don't drink caffeinated drinks after dinner
- Encourage regular exercise
- Turn off electronic devices and phones that beep an hour before bedtime
- Don't allow children to stay up too late on the weekends
- Don`t allow children to take mid-day naps
- Seek medical help if your child continues to have sleep problems
Restablishing healthy eating habits
Long holidays tend to be filled with travel, irregular hours, and junk food. Parents can gradually re-introduce a regular meal routine. Research has shown that children benefit from a large breakfast and lunch of nutrient-rich foods. Poor nutrition has a negative impact on school performance. Websites such as www.myplate.gov can help parents to create balanced menus.
Asking children how they feel about going back
Parents need to ask their children how they feel about going back. It is normal for children to have fears and anxieties about going to school, especially if they are going to a new one. They could be worrying about everything from getting into their locker to making new friends to navigating a new school. Open-ended questions from parents rather than queries that can be answered as ``yes`` or ``no`` will gather more relevant information. Parents should listen closely to their children for any concerns and deal with them before the fall, if possible.
Anxiety about a transition to a new school can be eased by the parents taking the kids on a tour of the building and identifying features such as the main entrance and play area.
Emphasize the positive
Parents can emphasize the good things that their children like about going to school. A parent`s positive attitude and enthusiasm about education is catching. Children may be reluctant to return if they had a bad experience at school. Parents can encourage them to look forward to a new beginning and a fresh start.
Parents can ask their kids to write down the things that they would like to do in their remaining free time before school starts and parents can try to do them. This way, children will feel that they had a fulfilling and satisfying time off, and have less regrets about going back to school.
Create a sense of anticipation
During a long summer, school seems as far away as Never-Neverland. Parents can encourage children to feel positive about going back to school by creating a sense of anticipation. Now is a good time to remind kids about the things they like about school, such as seeing their friends everyday and learning new things. Parents can generate also more interest by asking their children what school activities they want to join in the fall.
Shopping for back to school supplies with our kids can also help school seem more real to them. Parents can ward off complaints of boredom by offering to buy something new such as clothes to show off. Kids will be more interested in the process if they can pick out the items they want.
- Buy a backpack that is lightweight and no more that 15 to 20 percent of the child`s body weight
- The backpack should have a cushioned back, two wide and padded shoulder straps, and waist straps
- Children should make sure shoulder straps are tight and use both of them
- Heavier items should be put closer to the center of the back and all compartments should be used
- Children should be encouraged to stop by their lockers several times a day to change their books rather than carrying a heavy load all day
- Kids should be reminded to bend both knees when lifting a backpack
- Children should be mindful so they do not create safety hazards such as leaving a backpack on the ground where other kids could trip, or swinging the backpack and hitting others
- Children often experience shoulder and back discomfort with the heavy use of backpacks. Parents should seek medical help if children complain of persistent back pain
Talk about bus safety
Accorrding to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, about 19 children or pedestrians die in school transportation-related crashes each year. Parents should discuss safety rules and take some precautions before the whirlwind of going to school begins.
Here are some guidelines:
Before getting on the bus: Children should arrive five minutes or more before the scheduled stop and avoid going into the street. Parents should encourage kids to pay attention to their surroundings and avoid horseplay.
On the bus: Parents can remove drawstrings from clothing beforehand that might get caught on the bus`s handrails. Children are safer when they get on the bus single file, use the bus handrails, and remain seated with hands and legs close to the seat so that the aisles are clear.
Getting off: Children should wait for the bus to stop completely before exiting. There should be at least 10 feet (or five giant steps) between them and the bus before they cut in front of the bus to cross the street. Parents can encourage their children to look both ways before crossing.
© 2013 Carola Finch