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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

10 Things for parents to consider before children go back to school after Winter break

Going back to school after Winter break can add stress to a child, parent, and the daily routine, especially after the holidays. Family time, relatives, special celebrations are all fun and everyone gets excited, however the anticipation of going back to school offer stressful times if we wait until the night before school starts to get ready.  Here are my top ten actions to consider as a parent before your child goes back to school in January.

10 - Stay informed. Check the school's district, school, and classroom websites, calendar, Facebook or Twitter accounts for any last minute changes to schedules, routines, new initiatives, or other considerations which may begin during the start of the second semester of school. Some teachers will post items two or three days before school resumes to remind parents of any changes in schedule or events the first week back.

9- Prepare notes to send to the teacher. If there have been changes in the student's health or any event which will help the teacher to know about a life-changing or other "life-event" (birth of sibling, death of close relative, etc.) send a note to the teacher. Email can be overwhelming for teachers the first day or two back so a brief note to look at email or to call home would get the attention of the student's teacher right away.

8- Talk about returning to school. Be positive. Remember that unless the child is old enough to understand sarcasm, they will take adult comments about "having to" return to school as truth and feel differently about school. Let them tell you about the fun things they did before school ended. This will help to bring back the fondness and generate positive anticipation in returning to school in January.

7-Update the school on any changes in phone numbers (get a new phone for Christmas?), emergency contact information, address, or any other changes to be sure the second semester contact and inclement weather considerations are in place at the beginning of the January term.

6-Talk to your child about school attire. Remind the fashion conscious the cute outfit from grandma may not work for standard school attire where the rules are more restrictive and consistent which wouldn't allow some of the styles to be worn at school. Also, take the time to discuss and talk about what we see on the outside is should not to be used to judge what is on the inside. A good idea is to talk about and prepare for what your child is going to wear when they go back to school for the first few days and even get them to help you select specific clothes so they are not hiding in the laundry basket on the first morning back.

5- Talk with your child that it may be difficult. The first few days back to school are an adjustment to working on math, language arts, rather than other holiday activities. Also, remember homework may be on the schedule when school starts back in January. Early discussions can ease the surprise element of change and help us as parents and our children to set expectations before we get overwhelmed. Understanding and preparing for change helps to mitigate the challenges which come with change.

4-Our children love to share what happened over the holidays, but some things just shouldn't be shared. Some classes will have time to share about what happened on their winter holiday or about their most exciting gift. As parents, if we take the time to ask questions about the holiday we can get an idea of what our children remember and can give guidance on perhaps not discussing the relative who stumbled or mumbled - even though the family may have seen it as funny at the time, discussed in a school setting may not have the same hilarity.

3-Help your child remember things about school. Ask them to tell you about what they think their first day will be like: "What will be the first thing you do?" "When will you go to lunch?" "Will you have Art, Music or PE?" Ask them to revisit their hopes and dreams or goals they set at the beginning of the school year. Not too much emphasis, but a good discussion or a few probing questions will get the brain working and ready them when they walk in on the first day back. (For help on revisiting hopes and dreams in the new year.)

2-Cut back on the holiday treats. By the time the holidays are over with all of the unique family traditions the cafeteria breakfast and lunch programs are going to leave our taste buds calling out for spices, seasonings, and craving, shall I say it, "sweets." After the New Year's day food traditions, start going back to the same foods and schedules the students were eating during their regular school day. Having meals at regular times or with foods on regular days (My daughter still asks for macaroni & cheese Wednesdays and she has a child or her own now.) it will help each of us get back into our comfort routines.

1-Get to bed early. Video games for gifts, late nights with relatives, are all great to have when you can sleep in or nap the next day. But when the demands for school start back, ease back into getting the proper amount of rest. But don't wait until the night before to change the bedtime for children. For my kids we would start on January 1st to ease back the non-holiday bedtime by fifteen minutes or so earlier each night until we were back to the normal school bedtime. We would also make sure to use the same wake-up method that we used during school days. If you use an alarm start setting it now, not the night before.  (Wondering what to do if you wake up early and school isn't back in session? How about spending the time reading. Select a book to read or visit an online reading site.)

Helping your child to ease back into the school day routine will reduce the family stress, personal stress and provide comfort and routine to the child. If you are like my family, we enjoy the changes the holidays bring, but are so happy when we can get back into the comfort of the familiar. We just seem to relax after everything returns to "normal."


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