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Tips for Back-to-School Success

By Michelle LaRowe Conover

For parents of school-age children, September can bring mixed emotions. For some parents, the first day of school brings a sense of relief as it marks the end of childcare struggles and summer chaos; for others, especially parents of children entering kindergarten, it can bring sadness and a hint of anxiety as they prepare to launch their children into a world of unfamiliar faces and places, routines and expectations.

The good news is, with a little preparation parents can help their children and themselves transition into the school year seamlessly and get their kids off to the right start.

1. Take time to attend meet-and-greet events.

Most schools host open houses when families can tour the school, check out their children’s classrooms and connect with their soon-to-be teachers and classmates. Attending this event together can help build your children’s sense of security and assure on the first day of school that they aren’t meeting the teacher or seeing the classroom for the first time.

2. Host a back-to-school BBQ.

Hosting a gathering for classmates before school starts or the weekend following the start of school can provide the perfect opportunity for your children to get to know their classmates and for you to get to know their parents.

3. Solidify a routine.

A predictable routine helps children to feel safe and secure. Children who are exposed to a routine also tend to perform better in school than children who aren’t. Have a set time for waking up, eating meals and going to bed. Doing so will help assure that your children are well rested, have time to have a nutritious breakfast and maintain consistent blood sugar levels throughout the day, all of which will enhance their ability to focus and to remain emotionally upbeat.

4. Get organized.

Having a set place for your children’s school books and supplies can help to eliminate early morning scavenger hunts, which inevitably lead to chaos. Designate storage areas for school bags, lunch boxes, sports equipment, important papers and musical instruments.

Insist that your children unpack their school bags as soon as they return home from school each day. Making lunches and pulling out school clothes the night before can also help to keep your mornings calm.

5. Pray for your children daily.

Children face challenges and temptations each day. Ask God to guide your children, to give them wisdom and favor, to protect them and to help them make the right choices.

6. Make yourself known.

By establishing a presence in the school and classroom, you send the message that you’re involved and active in your children’s lives. Even if you can’t volunteer regularly in the classroom, you may be able to bake goodies for school bake sales, chaperone special events or take part in school fairs. Even simply sending a teacher an occasional thank-you note will convey that you consider yourself a partner in your children’s education and that you’re keeping tabs on what’s going on.

7. Have a time and a place for homework.

Whether it is right after school or right after dinner, have a set time when homework gets completed and a set place where it’s done. When your children know that they are expected to do their homework at the same time, in the same place each day, they’re less likely to put up a struggle.

8. Preserve your children’s free time.

After a long and structured day, kids need time to be kids. Set aside time when your children can take part in activities they enjoy. Knowing they can still have some fun each day, they will be less likely to view school as the reason they can’t play outside or visit with a neighborhood friend.

9. Eat dinner together.

Children who eat dinner regularly with their families are less likely to take part in risky behaviors like smoking or using drugs. Remember, eating together is about more than food. Sitting around the table provides an opportunity for everyone to reconnect and identify with their family unit.

If kids don’t feel a healthy connection to their family that’s built on love, acceptance and a desire to be together, they are going to look for that connection somewhere else.

10. Utilize a family calendar.

With everyone going in different directions, having a master family calendar on the fridge or somewhere else where the family can see it will help everyone know who is supposed to be where and when. Use a different color ink for each family member and update your calendar regularly.

11. Establish boundaries.

As your children navigate through their new environment, having a clear understanding of what is and what is not acceptable will help them to make good choices. When a child asks to go over to a new friend’s house for the first time, explain that it is your policy to meet the parents first. If your kids want to see a movie that you don’t deem acceptable, remind them of your family’s viewing habits at home.

Setting boundaries allows you to be proactive rather than reactive, which can help to eliminate power struggles and awkward confrontations when your child asks to take part in activities that are unacceptable to you — especially when new friends or their parents are present and waiting for a response.

12. Make time for family devotions and prayer.

It’s during these times that children may open up about struggles, problems or concerns that they are having in school. By being available, by regularly teaching your children the Word of God, and by talking about how it applies to their lives, you’ll empower them with timeless truths that will guide their decision making process.

MICHELLE LaROWE CONOVER is the author of Working Mom’s 411: How to Manage Kids, Career and Home and attends Faith Assembly of God in Hyannis, Mass.

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