Experts’ tips for a successful school year

  • By Heidi Stevens Chicago Tribune
  • Sunday, August 19, 2012 5:38pm
  • Life

You’re looking for one (just one!) change to make the new school year smoother and more successful. What should it be?

Our favorite parenting experts and parents share their tips:

Create a morning schedule with your kids and post it prominently. When kids know what to expect — and what your expectations are — everything will go that much smoother. And when things go off the rails, as they inevitably will, you at least have an instructive template you can refer to.

Also, be sure to include some downtime at the end of the routine (10 minutes of television watching or something) as a buffer, and as something that can be revoked if the other steps in the schedule are not completed.

Brett Berk, early childhood expert and author of “The Gay Uncle’s Guide to Parenting”

To avoid homework battles, and to instill a sense of ownership and personal pride in kids, only offer as much help (and monitoring) as they actually need.

Roni Cohen-Sandler, clinical psychologist and co-author of “I’m Not Mad, I Just Hate You! A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict”

Since working parents have few chances to interact, and open-house time tends to be a crush of parents trying to grab the teacher’s attention, I’ve taken to sending an email to my kids’ teachers on the first day or so of school, just sharing insights into my kids that might help them in the classroom, and making it clear that we want to stay in close touch even though we both work full time.

Cindy Dampier, parent

Get ready the night before. Few things are as stressful as hurrying around in the morning and not knowing where clothes/homework/supplies are located. There is no time to remedy the situation.

Get the kids to make a schedule that they will help carry out; even really young kids can pick out outfits, pack backpacks, pack lunch, set an alarm.

This is great training for them and less stress, once a routine is established, for parents.

Dodie Hofstetter, parent

Implement a regular bedtime and wake-up time 14 days before school resumes to set your child’s body clock rhythms into the groove of revving up and winding down.

Schedule play dates with classmates so your child has a buddy/partner going in on the first day of school.

During that 14-day heads-up, take your child for a walk through the school campus. Rediscover where the bathrooms, cafeteria, new classroom, library and playground are.

Familiarity reduces anxiety. Change is hard for everyone, kids and adults. The less abrupt and more of a process you can make it, the easier for your child to adjust and accept.

Fran Walfish, child and family psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent”

Don’t buy all the back-to-school clothing in advance. Even if a uniform code simplifies things for you, the child’s tastes will be influenced by what she/he sees peers wearing and by what she/he finds most comfortable.

Fewer options will reduce complications in the early weeks of school, too (even if it means midweek laundering).

Also, if a uniform code allows a white shirt or a darker shirt, favor the darker for durability. If your child favors skirts/dresses, don’t forget bike shorts (or choose skorts).

Wendy Donahue, parent

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