By MaryRuth Hackett, Together Let Us Go Forth Magazine
As the temperatures in the Valley soar, the monsoon storms roll in, and the pools become too warm to be considered refreshing, our thoughts begin to turn to school. Some years, it seems to sneak up on us, whereas other years I find myself doing the countdown once smoke has cleared from the Fourth of July fireworks. There are five areas where I can subtly begin to make changes in our home in order to prepare the children for a smoother return to school.
The best way to prepare kids to go back to school is by helping them reset their personal sleep clocks. Kids need to have regularity in their lives, and setting their sleep schedules is the best way to regulate other stuff naturally. Regular bedtimes are touted as the key to getting kids up and off to school bright-eyed and ready to learn. If you are like many homes and have loosened the bedtime for your kiddos in the summer months, moving back towards their normal bedtime in small increments can be helpful. Putting your kids to bed 20-30 minutes earlier every few days can gently ease them back into a place, so they are easier to get out of bed when that first day alarm sounds.
Making sure that you eat on a regular schedule the week before school will help your kids once school starts. Eating a good breakfast, giving them a little snack mid-morning, and having your lunch time around the same time the kids eat at school will keep their tummies from grumbling in their desks.
Help your children to gather their supplies early so that they are all together and ready for the first day. It is a huge stress release for your children to see that they have everything they need to confidently walk through their classroom door.
Be a listener, not a fear-monger. Watch for the signs that your child is bothered, because kids don’t often voice these issues. If your child is more grumpy than normal, having bad dreams, or wetting the bed, ask some prompting questions: “How do you feel about school starting?” or “Are you excited about school starting?” Stay positive about it all and help your child process their feelings without having you instill fear! DON’T say things like, “Gosh, a new school year can be scary”; “Are you worried about school starting?”; “Are you worried about seeing your friends again?”; or “Are you worried that your teacher is going to be mean?” Rather, ask them how they feel about the school year starting, and work from there. Acknowledge their fears, but reassure them that everything will be OK. God is always with them! Keep it lighthearted and positive.
Get yourself ready
Don’t forget to actually get your own stuff in order, too. Start praying for your children’s teacher and classmates. Be sure you read everything from the school — things change year to year, so don’t assume you know it all. Wake up on time, have your coffee, get your own things together, and know where you are going and when. The first week will go much easier when you, as a parent, do your part.
The new school year is an exciting time for the whole family! By being intentional, staying positive, and tuning into each child individually, you can start the school year and set your child up for success.
— MaryRuth Hackett, Ph.D., is a mom of four with a doctorate in educational psychology, specializing in child development. She hosts the Parenting Smarts podcast and blogs at Parenting with Peer Review. An earlier version of this post first appeared on peer-review-parenting.blogspot.com.
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