You may have already invested in half of the school supplies in Walmart, picked out an entire wardrobe of back-to-school clothing, and be waiting with baited breath for the sound of the school bus, but is your child ready?
Often we forget in the rush of buying school supplies that our children need time to prepare for school as well. Remember those days as a kid when the summer seemed to stretch on forever? Imagine how your child feels when he's suddenly hit with long rides on the school bus, homework, and lots of new faces.
In fact, some of the difficulty I see from parents who are panicking because their child seems to be drowning the first week of school, is often because they failed to take the time to help their transition from free spirit to school slave.
Here are some tips you can use to help your child make a smooth transition from summer to the first day of school:
1) Help your child get used to waking up on time.
If you're like most parents, your child has spent numerous nights jamming on the couch, and more mornings than you'd care to admit buried deep under the covers well past 8 o'clock.
While I'll be the first to admit that's the whole point of vacation, it does nothing to help your child when he suddenly has to readjust his body clockwork and get up at some previously unheard of hour.
Overtired children make for grumpy, uncooperative offspring, and unpleasant -but avoidable - morning fights. This period is especially difficult for children with special needs, who often have a desperate need for sameness, and avoid change like the plague.
You can avoid all of that by helping your child to reset their internal clock.
Your child's internal clock will need at least a week to adjust to a new schedule. Help your child get into the groove by slowly moving her bedtime back about 15 minutes, and pushing up the time she wakes up by 15 minutes.
For example, if your child has been going to bed at 9:30 p.m., the first night you need to set bedtime at 9:15. If your child has been waking up around 9 in the morning, then wake them up at 8:45 a.m.
Your child should arrive at the appropriate bedtime in a few days.
2) Get your child used to doing homework again.
Ahh, homework. It's definitely the bane of many parents. I personally can't tell you how many times I wished the teacher would die a thousand homework deaths for giving homework that took hours, or just couldn't be done. (Okay, maybe I didn't wish they were actually dead - just temporarily incapacitated).
But since most of the time homework has to be done, you need to get your child back in the habit of giving up his precious free time to sit at the table and do boring, useless, homework. (You do know homework has been proven absolutely useless, don't you? Take a look at what Alfie Kohn says about the matter).
Forget about all the speeches about how doing homework prepares you for life and good citizenship. They weren't very convincing when your boss asked you to take some work home, now were they?
Instead, simply tell your child exactly what your plan is. Then set aside 10 minutes or so of table time where he needs to do some sort of work that you assign him.
You can find plenty of stuff online of course, and there's no need to go out of your way to make things especially boring. And while you're at it, take a look at this post on the 7 Effective Study Habits for Children with LD.
You could spend some time doing some hands on learning, or you could simply take that time to read or write a story with your child. Either way, make it clear to your child how long the session will last.
Build in a minor reward, like choosing an extra story at bedtime, or getting to use the bubbles for her bath. You can gradually wean her off of the incentive after a few days.
3) Make sure your child's backpack and notebooks are set up for success.
First of all, make sure you have exactly what you need. Parents sometimes have this habit of assuming it won't really matter if the crayons are the 32 pack instead of the 16 color.
But it really does. Sometimes there actually are some really good reasons why teachers say exactly those materials, in that quantity, from X company.
School is already hard enough without your child having to worry if the teacher will be mad at him because he didn't bring exactly what's on the list. So just do your child a favor: if you can afford it, just swallow and put it in the cart.
It's also important to make sure your child's notebooks, workbooks, and textbooks are easily locatable, and organized so that your child doesn't leave critical material at school. Here's a practical post on how to do that: Help Your ADHD Child Organize Her Backpack.
Have a question or a comment? Love to hear from you below!