The first few days and weeks of school really do set the tone for the rest of the year, and there are some things all parents can do from day one to help their kids succeed. Here are 11 back-to-school tips from David Schramm, Ph.D., CFLE, who is a Family Life Specialist & Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development & Family Studies at Utah State University.
Establish Routines - Research shows that both kids and adults` brains and bodies do best when there is predictability, stability, and routines. Try to make each day predictable by going to bed and getting up around the same time. Bedtimes rituals might include brushing teeth, reading a book, or sitting on their bed and talking about their day.
Start the Night Before - Parents can prevent a good deal of school-morning stress by starting the nighttime routine early, which includes getting things ready for the following day. Teach children to make and pack their own lunches, pick and lay out their clothes before going to bed, clean their room so its clean when they head out the door, and packing their school bag/gym bag.
Put Responsibility on Them - How much responsibility you give your child will depend on their age, but children should learn to set and get up to their own alarm clock, without having parents wake them up. They should also be responsible for getting papers signed, getting homework turned in on time, and asking for help before its bedtime. Older children may find the following apps helpful to organize assignments: iHomework or MyHomeWork
Refresh Your Screen Rules - Often children have more time during the summer to play video games, text their friends, and stay up watching movies. Revisit your family rules and limits about screens— what`s allowed, what`s turned in, and when.
Make Time to Talk - When children come in the door, or you come home from work and greet them, try to put aside distractions and make time to connect for even a few minutes before you rush to get dinner ready. Ask children open-ended questions, including the best part about their day, who their friends are, and things they are learning or struggling to learn. Give them your entire attention for a few minutes and get excited about the goods news they share.
Create a Family Calendar - Whether it`s a digital calendar that you all share, or a calendar in the kitchen, encourage your children to write things down as soon as they know about them. Coordinating schedules can help prevent unneeded stress. Let children use a system that they are willing and excited to use.
Know When to Say No - Sure, it`s nice to be on the PTA for each of your children`s schools, help with fundraisers, and volunteer to assist in the classroom, but beware of signing up to serve until you know you can realistically commit to helping. Being involved in your child`s learning has been show to boost parent-child relationships and academic outcomes, but don`t be pressured to do things that will compromise your own well-being.
Your Child`s Brain Needs Sleep - Children between ages 3-12 need between 10-12 hours of sleep every night to function their best the next day. For teenagers, social pressures may conspire against them to stay up later, but most teens need between 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Encourage healthy sleeping routines right from the start.
Make Time for Family Time - A new school year can feel overwhelming and exhausting. Be sure to spend time together each day and reconnect. It could happen while making or eating a meal together, playing a game, or sharing one thing that made each of you happy before bedtime.
Touch Base With Teachers - Check in early on by visiting with your child`s teacher(s). Getting to know them and allowing them to get to know you can help when there are areas to troubleshoot.
Take Care of You - As the children head back to school, be sure to make time for you and for reenergizing yourself by doing things with other adults. Playgroups, book clubs, heading back to the gym - the point is you are a much better parent when your tank is full. Eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep go a long way in helping you be the best parent, and person, you can be.