A version of this article originally appeared in MomsConfession.
The barrage of back-to-school commercials begins now, pushing everything from notebooks to computers, eyeglasses, furniture, and appliances. Whether your child is starting pre-school or going back to college, here are some back to school tips to make the end-of-summer a breeze:
1. Start practicing your school routine now.
Begin to transition from the lazy days of summer by setting alarms (and bedtimes!) earlier and following your normal school-year routine: have kids make (or help make) breakfast and/or pack lunches; let older kids practice driving to the high school parking lot on their own.
2. Communicate clearly with teachers.
Tell your child’s teachers and counselors about any learning difficulties, behavioral issues, or other concerns ahead of time…whether your preschooler gets anxious around strangers or your middle-schooler has a learning difference. Help high school students develop the ability to communicate for themselves. When students can act as their own advocate, they are more likely to receive the help they need.
3. Set expectations for “study time.”
When kids know ahead of time that you expect them to do a little schoolwork every day, you will have fewer fights about it. Let them help establish goals for learning, and schedule study time into each day. I’ve seen many students, usually in middle-school, who can actually complete all their homework in study hall or on the bus ride home. Just because the school isn’t challenging them academically doesn’t mean they shouldn’t develop regular study skills. Set a minimum study time for your house; homework or not, your child will spend this amount of time reading, reviewing, or completing academic goals. High school students could spend a minimum of an hour a day completing school assignments, researching a topic of interest, reading, working SAT sample questions, and so on.
4. Identify academic weaknesses and potential resources.
Don’t wait for the first progress report to take action. Sometimes it is enough to recognize that your child will need to spend a little extra time learning his multiplication facts or completing her geometry homework. Other times, the weakness may be serious enough to require help. Look for study tools, peer tutors, tutorial time from teachers, counseling resources, and outside assistance if necessary. Every year I have families call me a few weeks before exams looking for someone who can help with math. All of the quality math tutors I know tend to book-up by the end of October.
5. Insist students participate in activities.
Activities allow kids to develop leadership, teamwork, and talents. School clubs, sports, Scouts, church, music lessons, UIL academics, community service, theater, and recreational activities help develop interests. And active students have an advantage later when it comes to college admissions: Schools want students who have taken time to give back and cultivate their talents.
Keep in mind colleges are looking for dedication and depth. Students are better off committing to a handful of meaningful activities than trying to join a bunch of groups that don’t do much. It is a good idea to keep a list of all activities, honors, awards, service, and work because these are the items typically found on a college-bound resume.
6. Allow time to adjust.
As parents, we expect kindergarteners and first-year college students to experience some difficulty adjusting to their new environments. But even students returning to the same school may need time and support to adapt to new classrooms, teachers, friends, routines, and expectations. Be aware that all students react to change differently.
7. Take time for yourself.
Even if it is a five-minute coffee break or a hot bath after the kids go to bed, take time for yourself. Back to school can be stressful.
What are your back-to-school survival tips?