Back-to-School Transition Tips

As summer winds down, most families are getting ready for the start of the school year.

But how do you get your child back in the school routine?

Parenting expert Shannon Eis offered tips and tricks for parents looking to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Eis says parents need to have a strategy for the school year.

"Early on, you want to make sure you're good to go," she said. "Parents have lots of to-do's, and they often come in the form of paperwork from the school -- so get organized early. Be sure to review the material sent by the school as soon as it arrives."

Eis says this can include important information about your child's teacher, room number, school supply requirements, dress code, sign-ups for after-school sports and activities, school calendar dates, bus transportation and health and emergency forms.

She suggests starting a file system to keep school paperwork organized and easy to access.

For many families, the biggest challenge during this transition is just getting kids up, fed and out the door.

"If you're like many parents, the sleep routines got a little looser during the summer months," Eis said. "Without having to be out the door at exactly a certain time each morning, bedtime inched a little later and later, and morning rise times did the same. Even if you think, 'Enjoy the summer while you can!' this is one area where an earlier adjustment will benefit all of you later. With more and more research indicating the importance of sleep in learning, don't let your kids start the school year tired."

She suggests that, at least A week before school starts, parents start moving back to the school-year bedtime by half-hour increments.

She said, "Remember -- a great morning starts with a wonderful evening. At the same time, have the children wake up earlier each day, until they have gotten up at their regular school time for about a week."

She suggests an iPod alarm clock (or any other alarm clock) to give kids a sense of control and independence. "When they hear the alarm, it's up to them to begin waking up," she said.

In addition, Eis recommends meals be considered in the back-to-school transition.

"With looser days in the summer, meal planning may be looser, too," Eis said. "When you start transitioning sleep routines, transition meal planning, as well. Family meals, which are an important time of reconnection, often go right out the window once school begins. Think about when bag lunches will be made and factor that into your school year routines. What about extra-curricular activities? How might those impact the family routine, and homework time? Identify and plan for all these elements of the school year, so you can re-establish meal routines and make sure family meals happen every day!"

What about homework? How do you get your kids back in the habit?

Eis suggests parents begin by calling the teacher and finding out what his or her idea of a fair night's worth of work will be for your child.

Also, Eis recommends parents figure out a central place for the kids do homework, then decide when they're going to do it.

"Routine and procedures are best put into place right now," she said. "You need to help reset your children's brains set for homework. They need a clean, less distracted place to work and be sure to set guidelines when technology is in play."

Eis also suggests parents keep safety in mind when heading back to school.

"It's amazing, but many little kids don't even know their home addresses," she said. "Your child should know his full name and address, as well as his home telephone number. Children who are school-aged should be able to memorize this information easily. You should also be sure to have a medical consent form on hand for any carpooling, play dates or babysitters."

To keep in touch with your kids, Eis suggests a cell phone by Kajeet that enables parents to have control over all settings. The phone also has GPS kid-tracking and pre-programmed emergency contact numbers.

How about the kids -- what is their role in the transition?

Eis says with younger children, parents should see if the school offers early tours so the child can visit their new school ahead of time and be familiar with its facilities.

For older students, Eis says it's about teaching them when to ask for help.

"Have children choose no more than two after-school activities per season, so they don't overdo themselves," she said. "Maintaining balance requires setting priorities and making choices. When they feel overwhelmed, teach your children to ask for help."
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