Back to School and Thriving!

Back to School and Thriving!

The start of a new school year is always an exciting and busy time for kids and families. For kindergarteners, school may be a completely new experience. But even kids in 1st through 12th grades are facing new teachers, new classroom rules, and new expectations. Learning all these things in the first month of school can be exhausting!  (Just imagine what it would be like if you were asked to change to a new job every year.) So, it’s time for parents to pull out their tool kit filled with skills for thriving!  When kids feel tired, hungry, anxious, or cranky you can ease that stress.  Here are six skills that will set your kids up for a great school year!

  • Make sure your child gets enough sleep. Kids of all ages need enough sleep in order to be able to do well at school. Not getting enough sleep can cause problems with attention and behavior among other things. Find out how many hours of sleep your child needs here. One way to make sure that your child gets enough sleep is to set up consistent bedtime routines.
  • Set up morning routines. To have a productive day without a lot of extra stress, children need to be able to get up and go to school on time with all the materials that they need (like lunch, a backpack, and homework). If you have not done it before school starts, it is not too late to set up a schedule in the first month of school. Check out our guide for putting together morning routines here.
  • Make sure that your child gets regular healthy meals and snacks. Kids’ brains need fuel in order to function. And they may need fuel more often than we do as adults. Make sure that your child has an opportunity to have breakfast before school starts (either at home or at school), has a good lunch, eats a healthy afterschool snack, and has dinner. Families that need some help to provide food for their kids can receive free or reduced price breakfast and lunch for their children at their schools. Schools often provide mid-morning snacks as well. Check with your school’s office to find out how to sign up for meals.
  • Have a “soft landing” after school. Kids have a lot to do during their school day. They are learning new things, and also working to get along with their peers, teachers, and other adults. Cooperating, negotiating, and problem-solving takes a lot of effort. So instead of asking them to get straight to their homework or do chores when they come home, work out a schedule so that they have 30 minutes to wind down and relax after school. This should include a healthy snack. It is also a good time to ask your child about her day and find out what is going on at school.
  • Designate a place for school materials. To help your kids keep track of all the books and papers they need for school, you can set up a place in your house for “school stuff”. It doesn’t have to be big. You could even put a laundry basket for each child beside the front door. The important thing is that they know that this is the place that they drop off their backpacks when they come home and put their homework when it is done so they have everything ready to go in the morning. It’s also a great place for parents to leave completed forms that need to be taken back to school or lunches or even equipment for afterschool sports and other activities.
  • Recognize and reward your child’s efforts. Getting used to a new school year is work. Let your child know that you recognize that he is working hard. This can be as simple as saying “You are doing a great job at learning the rules in your new class”, or “I noticed that the teacher put a smiley face on your homework. Great work!” You could also plan some special activities like letting your child pick his favorite foods for dinner one night or having a family game or movie night on the weekend. Or you could include special notes in your child’s lunch box just to remind her that you love her and that you see that she is working hard.

The first month of school requires a lot of energy. Once kids get into the swing of things, it will be easier. In the meantime, helping them to get off to a smooth start can pave the way for a successful school year!

Katherine Pears
Dr. Katherine Pears is a senior scientist at Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC). She earned her Ph.D in clinical psychology and has worked with OSLC since 1998. Katherine is the principal investigator and co-developer of the Kids In Transition to Schools (KITS) program. Currently, she oversees all the clinical and research activities for KITS. When she’s not in her office, you’ll find Katherine in the kitchen whipping up her latest creation or outdoors hiking a scenic trail.

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