Try These Tips at Home

– Guest post by Susan True, Executive Director of First 5 Santa Cruz County

You and your family have made it through summertime—family vacations, going to the beach, play dates and picnics, arranging child care or summer camps, or hanging around the house. Now it’s time for kids to get in back to school mode—making it to school on-time, meeting teachers, reconnecting with friends, starting new activities and getting homework done.

The anticipation of the start of school and getting back into school routines (or starting school for the first time) can be a welcome change. But sometimes the stress and anticipation for both the parent and child can feel overwhelming for families.

For children, the new school year is a time that can mean different things. For some, it’s pure joy. For others, it’s utter panic. For many, it’s somewhere in between.

For parents, the new school year can bring a sense of relief that the task of keeping children active and occupied throughout long summer days has come to an end. For others, it brings the unwanted shock of returning to a more structured life after months of freedom and flexibility. For many, it’s somewhere in between.

In addition, changes such as new schools, teachers, classmates, homework (or more homework) can be hard to manage for both kids and parents in any family. These transitions can lead to stressful family interactions.

Yet school is a central part of a child’s life, and handling changes or transitions effectively is an important skill for children to learn. Parents and caregivers can help their kids (and themselves) have a positive back-to-school experience by taking a few moments to connect, talk and plan ahead.

Here are a few tips and suggestions that can help make the summer-to-school transition go more smoothly for everyone:

Create a morning routine. Morning routines take the guess-work out of getting ready for school. Identifying what tasks need to be completed before leaving for school—breakfast, teeth, getting dressed, etc—can reduce morning-time stress. Work with your child to create a daily routine that s/he can eventually learn to follow independently.

Start your child’s day with a healthy, well-balanced breakfast. Good nutrition is a major cornerstone of your child’s day. A healthy breakfast will give your child’s brain and body the “fuel” needed to be ready to learn.  Having healthy foods that you or your child can easily prepare will help make the mornings more efficient—and peaceful.

After school, let your child have some time to relax. As adults, we know the value of “down-time.” Children of all ages also benefit from taking a break from the demands of the day. When your child comes home from school, offer healthy snacks and an opportunity to relax. Take this time to connect with your child by asking questions and showing interest in how his or her day went.

Set a regular time and space for homework. Whether it’s for reading books, working on a project or completing a simple worksheet, designate a time and a quiet space with good lighting for doing homework. Talk with your child – or your child’s teachers – about homework assignments and due dates to avoid the stress of last-minute deadlines. Homework time is an opportunity to provide support and help if needed, including providing words of encouragement as your child makes progress.

Establish an evening routine. Set a consistent bedtime, and work with your child to identify the tasks to be completed before then, such as pajamas, brushing teeth and flossing, choosing clothes for the next day, etc. Making lunch and packing backpacks may also be helpful tasks for you or your child to do each night instead of in the morning.  Start your evening routine  early enough to ensure your child gets to bed on time.

Make sure your child gets enough sleep every night. Getting a full night’s sleep will help your child get up on time in the morning and feel ready for a busy school day. 8-10 hours of sleep is recommended for children of all ages.

Whether your child is about to start school for the first or last time, following these practical tips can result in less stress for you, your child and your family, as well as happier, more confident kids who enjoy learning. Even small changes can make a big difference!

These tips come from the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County. Triple P is scientifically proven and is the world’s leading positive parenting program. In addition to tips like these, Triple P also offers classes and one-on-one meetings to help parents handle everyday parenting challenges.

For more information about Triple P, visit www.first5scc.org, www.facebook.com/triplepscc or www.youtube.com/triplepsantacruzco. To find a Triple P class or practitioner, contact Stephanie Bluford at 831-465-2217 or sbluford@first5scc.org