Monday, August 04, 2008

Get Set For School

In just a few short weeks the school bells will ring in a new academic year. Now is the time to begin the transition for a pleasant start of the school year.

Routines take a while to establish so start tackling these changes first. Bedtime is probably the biggest change the family needs to make: it may take several weeks to reset your students’ internal clocks to the school schedule. Gradual transitioning allows the child to have an adequate amount of sleep during the beginning of the school year and will reduce some bedtime battles. Most elementary school students need 10 to 11 hours of sleep, while most teenagers need 8 to 9 hours of sleep nightly. Inadequate sleep leads to irritability, impaired focus, and can heighten symptoms of ADD/ADHD, if that is a concern for your family. Transitioning also allows the change-resistant child adequate time to adjust to a new schedule.

Begin the transition by setting up a 30-minute routine of pre-bedtime activities: review the next day’s agenda, pack the backpack and set it out, set out clothes for the next day, bath, pajamas, and a quiet activity – that does not include the computer, video games or TV. Use a checklist to help your child take ownership of her routine. A good pre-bedtime routine help the child slow down and prepare for sleep plus it helps set the stage for a smooth start in the morning. Gradually start the pre-bedtime routine ten to fifteen minutes earlier every few nights. It may take two weeks to adjust going to bed an hour earlier. Consistency is important is establishing the routine so make sure the adjusted bedtimes are followed during the weekends as well.

Transitioning is good for the parents as well. Usually the family’s schedule must adjust for activities associated with the new academic year. Clubs, sports, and extracurricular lessons resume. For teens the summer job may evolve in to an after school job. Is there time for homework and family activities in the schedule?
Family cohesiveness depends on the family communication and time together. Add the school and extracurricular activities to the family calendar now. Reviewing the family time commitments before the school year begins allows for adjustments to be made before those activities begin. It may be worthwhile to talk to a teacher or a parent of an older child to see what you can find out about the upcoming school load and examine the schedule in light of what you find out.

Homework is a reality of school life so insure that there is time in the schedule and a distraction-free place in which to do it. A productive workspace includes adequate lighting, adequate space to do the work, and storage for supplies and papers. Supplies and papers can be stored in a portable file box if the kitchen table does double-duty as a homework spot. For elementary school students the kitchen table may be the best place to do homework. Young students are still in need of adult help to help maintain their focus on their work. Usually by middle school students can regulate their own behavior enough to do their homework in their room.

Studies have shown that organization improves academic performance. It will be easier for your child to focus on her schoolwork if the beginning of the school year begins with anticipation and preparation. Start now to plant the seeds for success.