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Family Matters Blog: Blogger Shares Back-to-school Tips

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2010 – After two months of summer vacation, the natives are restless. My kids have been at home at close quarters for weeks at a time now and the tension is mounting.


It started out innocently enough. Back in June, my 6- and 8-year-old were thrilled to toss off their school shackles and dive right into summer fun. They swam for hours, visited amusement parks, built sand castles on the beach and sweated gallons during outdoor play.


While at first they were best buds, over time the sibling quarrels began to escalate along with the temperature. I've come to realize there really is such a thing as too much together time.

While my children won't admit it out loud, I think we all are secretly looking forward to the first day of school. They may grumble and moan about it, but I know when that first day of school arrives, they'll head off excitedly to meet their friends with new backpacks and school supplies in tow.

Since that time is almost at hand – sooner than later for some -- I wanted to share some helpful back-to-school tips I found on the Great Schools website.  

-- For pain-free adjustments, start school-time preparations early. For example, A few weeks before school starts, move bedtime back to an earlier time.

-- Put a positive spin on going back to school. Talk about the fun things your children will learn, the old friends they’ll see and the new friends they'll make.

-- If your children are anxious about starting the next grade, reassure them that other children have these feelings too.

-- Don't make plans for big trips right before the start of school.

-- Establish school-day schedules for homework, TV, baths and bedtime.

-- Arrange play dates with friends from school to re-establish connections that may have been dropped for the summer, or to create new ones.


 -- Hit the books. Find age-appropriate books about going back to school to initiate conversations about excitement and fears.

 -- Get organized.

-- Many schools send out school information and a packet of forms to fill out before school starts. If you can discipline yourself to fill out the paperwork several days before it's due, you'll avoid a last-minute panic.


-- Have the necessary immunization records available for easy reference.


-- Update school emergency contact and health information for the coming year.


-- As you read through all the school information, mark important dates, such as back-to-school night, parent-teacher conferences and school holidays, on the family calendar.


-- Start a folder for school newsletters and other papers so you can easily find and refer to them if necessary.

-- Establish a "get ready the night before" policy. Pick clothes for the next day and pack the backpack every evening before bedtime, and you'll save precious time in the morning.

 -- Shopping: take advantage of sales.


-- School clothes: It's always a great idea to buy what you know you’ll need early, if you can. Go through your children's wardrobes and weed out everything they've outgrown. Keep in mind school dress codes while shopping. Some schools prohibit short skirts and tank tops for girls and "sagging" (baggy trousers that hang low) for boys. Schools also may have rules regarding printed words or phrases on clothes.

-- School supplies: Many stores offer great sales on school supplies. Download the supply list from your school's website or pick up a list at the school's administrative office.

 -- Plan healthy meals. Get creative with easy, healthy ideas for school-day meals. If you plan and gather what you need on the weekends, you'll make life a lot less stressful and meals more nutritious during the week.

-- Breakfast: Remember the most important meal of the day. Fruit smoothies are a quick and healthy addition.

-- Lunch: Try some creative ideas for making school lunches healthy and fun. You can use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes, buy baked chips and low-fat crackers and pretzels, skewer fruit to make it fun to eat and sneak veggies like lettuce and cucumbers into sandwiches.

-- Dinner: Plan dinners for the week ahead and shop on the weekends to avoid last-minute trips to the grocery store.

-- Set priorities and schedules. Before school begins, discuss what extracurricular activities your child will participate in. Be realistic and don't fall victim to over-programming. And make sure to leave enough time to do homework and for family time. It's also smart to start a family calendar and have family members update it with activities.

-- Prepare for homework. Dedicate a place to do homework and establish a regular homework time. Discourage distractions such as TV, radio or the Internet during this time.

-- If your child is walking or biking to school, chart out a route to the school.

-- If your child is going to a new school, walk with or take a bike ride with your child a few days before school starts.


-- Go over the rules of stranger awareness and traffic safety. Warn your child to always walk with a friend, and to avoid vacant lots and places where there are not a lot of people.

-- Be sure your child has your daytime phone number and address, as well as the number of another familiar adult.


-- Scout out safe houses in the neighborhood where your child can go in case of an emergency.

-- If your child will take the bus, remember to get the new bus schedule.

-- If your child will be taking the bus for the first time, discuss the bus route and bus safety rules with her.


-- If you will be driving your child to school, have a backup arrangement with another parent in case you are delayed for some reason.


-- Confirm carpool arrangements in advance and make sure your children know who will be picking them up before and after school.


-- Become familiar with your school's traffic safety rules, drop-off and pick-up procedures.


 -- Confirm after-school care arrangements. Most after-school care arrangements must be made months ahead, frequently in the winter or spring before your child starts school. As the school year approaches, however, it's a good idea to confirm your plans.

-- Make sure your child knows where he is going after school.


-- If your child will be home alone after school, establish safety rules for locking doors and windows, and for answering the door and the telephone.

If you have any tried-and-true tips you'd like to share, don't hesitate to write in.

To comment on this blog, please visit the Family Matters blog.

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