OK, parents, I have a little August homework for you. In addition to all the list-making, supply-and clothes-shopping, whining-listening, it’s time for you to do some research. Tonight at the dinner table, ask your child this question:
“What is the hardest part about going back to school?”
BACK TO SCHOOL PREPARATION
Then plan your approach. Hopefully, you can plan it with your kid’s help!
1. Getting up! As I’ve said before, if we planned school to best suit the sleep needs of tweens and teens, 6th -12th grade would begin at noon. But we don’t, so start a couple of weeks before school.
a. Go back to school year curfews. What time you can (not want to, mind you!) get up is connected to what time you fall asleep, at least somewhat.
b. Push wake up time an hour earlier than it has been during the summer, then an hour earlier. Do this until you are at least in the neighborhood of school wake up time.
c. Use that early(ish) morning time to get done some things your child actually wants to do – this will make motivating them out of bed easier. Go back to eating breakfast!
d. Make a plan this year for wake-ups. You should not be the human alarm clock. Be clear with your child about what you are and are not willing to do to help them get up in the morning (remember, you want them to make their morning college classes someday without your help), and what the consequences will be if they don’t get up.
2. Homework. Cue the heavy music. There are a few things that might help.
a. Plan ahead. Often the curriculum for middle and high school classes is available online, so suggest to your child that she get a head start by getting books a little early and reading a little ahead. That will mean more hanging out and a little less shocking work load the first week or so of school.
b. Create the space. Where is your child going to do this homework? Get that space ready with a cubby, desk, bulletin board, wall calendar, whatever makes sense to him.
c. Write a contract. If you have patterns you want to avoid this year about homework, be clear now. Decide what is up to your child (timing of work, space, music, etc) and what is nonnegotiable (completion, grades, etc). Link your requirements to privileges your child wants (cell phone, friend time, extracurricular, whatever fits your philosophy). Write. It. Down!
3. Social worries. All that stress that faded over the summer can come rushing back in when a child contemplates the first day of school. Talking and strategizing can help.
a. Don’t leave it all to chance. Often kids have no control over who will be in class together. But they can hang out with some friends (new or old) in the couple of weeks leading up to school so that first day doesn’t feel so much like jumping in.
b. Join a team or group. A unity of purpose or interest can help make new relationships a lot faster than standing with a lunch tray looking for somewhere to sit.
c. Role play. Not every tween or teen will do this, but it can be amazingly helpful to “know your lines” when confronted by someone who makes you really nervous.
So, with an idea of what worries your child (if anything), and the roadblocks that concern you, a strong start is more than possible. Go forth and be schooled!