Whether you have a kindergartener, fourth grader, or senior starting back to school this week, the middle of August is surely a busy (and sometimes stressful) time for families. The Platte County R-3 School District begins its 2014-15 year Aug. 14. Although there is still time for cookouts and squeezing in a few more trips to the lake, the start of school often symbolizes a return to routine and tighter schedules and the end of summer. Do you remember a specific first day of school? Were you nervous, excited, maybe a little of both? There are so many questions that kids face when starting school. Will my teachers be nice? Can I make any friends? How do I get into my locker? After the new shoes, backpacks, and spiral notebooks are purchased, how will your family start the school year off right? Here are some tips for easing, rather than stumbling, into the school year. Start routines early. This is especially important for younger children. Begin earlier bedtimes at least a few nights before school starts, maybe even a week. Some parents choose to begin limiting TV and other screen time in the week or so leading up to school. Adequate sleep for children ensures that they are alert during school and helps fight illness. Organize, organize. Before school starts is an ideal time take inventory of things such as clothing, lunch items and supplies. Clean your child’s room, including closets, drawers and desks. Most children can either help with this task or complete it themselves with some specific directions. Set up message boards, hallway bins and other school-related organizational items. Think Success. Having a positive attitude about your child’s upcoming academic year is important. No matter the age, kids need to feel that their parents think that they can do well. Even if your child had a difficult time last year in school, this is a new beginning. Encourage your child to be hopeful about school by identifying the positive things about this year, whether it’s a new school, playing a sport or meeting new friends. Individualize your child. This can be a hard one for parents. A cluster of 15-year-old girls giggling can all be perceived as being the same, but the reality is that every child is different, even if they are the same age. What is unique about your child? How do you imagine your child’s personality traits impacting their school experience? Consider that your child may have unique academic or learning needs that will need to be addressed. Find passion and purpose. Foster curiosity and excitement in your child in the area that he or she is most interested in. This could be cooking, writing, music or community service. How can you connect your child’s passions and interests with their academic goals? Middle- and high-school-aged children may be showing an interest in a particular field of study or career. Consider including alternative learning methods such as documentary shows, museums, books and volunteering as a way to increase your child’s excitement for learning. Nighttime efforts help. Many parents have found success in preparing for the school day the night before. Mornings have a way of moving faster than other times of day, and for those mornings that you oversleep or the dog gets out of the yard, having a lot of things prepared in advance can be a lifesaver. Lay out clothes or breakfast items and have all forms signed and in backpacks. Devote an extra 15 minutes each night to school preparation, and the morning stress level in your household will be reduced. As the school year begins and then progresses, stay tuned for additional “Be Well” columns with information that pertains to the education and well-being of our children. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Our children’s first encouragement to change this world comes from us, by preparing them to receive education and immerse themselves in knowledge and experience. Here’s hoping that everyone has a fantastic school year. Until next time, be well.
Diane Bigler is a licensed clinical social worker who lives in Platte City with her family. She may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.