Back to School!

My family frequently vacations in August. Many years we would return right before the school year started to find the Back-To-School section at Target almost empty. Then we would run to Office Max, Staples, and even Walgreens – until we found every binder, folder, and notebook, in the right color, on the school supply list. Now that my son is a senior in high school, he doesn’t need much in the way of supplies and if he does he can run out and get them on his own. I miss those trips – however frantic they may have been. Those fresh new supplies seemed to set us up for a successful year when anything was possible!

The start of a new school year is a great time to review routines, expectations, and responsibilities. It gives us a clean slate for introducing new activities that build kids’ independence. Is this the year they start to make their own lunch? If so, do they know how? Do they get a fancy new lunch box for it or will they use recyclable paper bags? What snack items are easy to include so your child is cable of putting together a complete lunch?

Does your child wake up independently? If not, should they? Do they need a lot of time in the morning or, like my son, do they prefer sleeping until the last-minute – leaving just enough time to brush teeth, throw on some clothes and hopefully get their shoes tied? (I don’t recommend this, I gave up on the idea of a healthy breakfast years ago.) If you want your child to take on this new responsibility, will a certain type of alarm clock make that easier? What happens when they sleep through it?

I enjoy leaving little notes in my son’s things every now and then. But are there things that go beyond a little note which could really brighten your child’s day during a tough week? A new set of Barbie pencils? A small pack of Pokemon cards? A little surprise to let them know that mom and dad (or grandmother, uncle, neighbor, etc.) are thinking of them. Having these items on hand is an easy way to show support and love when they need it. It is amazing how much an unexpected bag of Skittles can help your child accomplish!

This is also a good time to set your child up for success with homework. Do you want your child to have a quiet, secluded spot to study? Or do they need some parental oversight? I remember my son sitting on the far side of the dining room table so I could not see his computer screen – but there were windows behind him so the game he was playing was perfectly reflected in the window. We went to plan B after that. It might be worthwhile to review expectations about when homework needs to be completed. Before time with friends or gaming? Or in the evening? What will set you, and your child, up for a successful, but pleasant, school year?

In addition to where your child does their homework, you may consider if they need music playing or fidget spinners. Some students do not do well in silent, bland spaces, while others require it. You might want to consider how much help your child needs with tracking homework assignments. I believe that as parents our goal is to teach our kids how to do things independently, not to do it for them (I have not always been successful  following this belief.)  How can we provide the scaffolding that will enable their growth and independence?

Another area of potential responsibility is getting to school. Is this the year he or she can ride their own bike? If so, who will they go with? What time will they leave and where will they meet? Are there certain roads they need to avoid? Having these things spelled out beforehand can reduce a lot of stress on their first day back at school – not just for them, but for the whole family (and teachers, bus drivers, crossing guards, and everyone else!)

While shiny new school supplies always remind me of my childhood and of the times that my son was excited about things like that, the new year is a chance to encourage new growth and development for our kids. Organizing your thoughts about this now, when you still have a week or two, can help make this a great academic year!

From the Expert