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Back to School Tips...for US!

Back to School Tips...for US!

Dr. Rebecca Branstetter

Friends, how did it happen? How is it back to school already? In a previous post, I wrote about the three summer phases, the last being the most glorious—the relaxation phase. I have gotten so good at Phase 3, it’s a shame to give it up, really. This summer, however, I did not master my goals of becoming bilingual, learning to reupholster vintage furniture, or finishing my book. I know, its shocking. But I did master removing all nasty spider-infested junipers from my yard on a juniper murdering spree involving a power saw. I also read a bunch of YA fiction books (for research!) about vampires and teens with superpowers (for research!). Lastly, I baked an apple pie from scratch. I mean, that’s gotta count for something from the gal whose cooking repertoire is limited to spaghetti, wheat thin nachos (yum), and those cookies you can cut from a log of dough and pretend you made. If only I had one more month of Phase 3…

HOWEVER, I think I failed to mention (repressed?) in my previous post about Phase 4: The Panic Phase. Apparently it occurs right about…glances at watch, one week before school starts up again. How will I get up with an alarm 5 days a week? Will my brain work again? Am I ready to take on breaking the cycle of poverty and closing the achievement gap from my janitorial closet?

A few years ago (wow! my blog is so established—almost 4 years, peeps!), I posted a list of things parents can do to help their their kids with a smooth back to school transition. I am reposting it now, but this time, with notes for US.

Before School Starts

1) Mark your calendar with important dates. Ok, so we all know the important dates, like that looming FIRST DAY OF WORK one in our iCals or old skool planners. But let’s also mark the holidays, shall we?

2) Buy school supplies early. Try to fill the backpacks a week or two before school starts. No problem, right? Retail therapy. It’s good. It does help the B2S transition for me to get all new supplies. Oh sure, I’m hemorrhaging money right now because of Target and Office Depot, but I feel more ready to return to school having a trunk full of Moon Sand, new play therapy games, and an unreasonable amount of new writing utensils.

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3) Reestablish the bedtime and mealtime routines at least one week before school starts. Include pre-bedtime reading and household chores if these were suspended during the summer. Gak! That means this week I cannot stay up until midnight watching United States of Tara and sleeping in? I do not like this. Not one bit. But I’ll do it. I’ll do it for the children.

4) Turn off the TV. Encourage your child to play quiet games, do puzzles, color, or read as early morning activities instead of tv. This will help ease your child into the learning process and school routine. If possible, maintain this practice throughout the school year. Again with the TV hating? Perhaps this one is only for the children, right? I’m rationalizing again. Fine, I’ll read over breakfast. I do have this one last YA fiction book I need to finish…(for research!)

5) Visit school with your child in advance if your child is young or in a new school. Oh hell no! I am not visiting the district office or my school sites. I remember them well.

6) Designate a clear place to do homework. Read: designate a clear place to write psychoeducational reports/grade papers/lesson plan. Ok, that’s fun, and may involve me purchasing that great Mid-Century Modern secretary desk I’ve had my eye on.

Overcoming School Anxiety

1) Let your child know you care. If your child is anxious about school, send personal notes in the lunch box or book bag. Reinforce the ability to cope. I am going to tell my husband to put notes in my test kits that I will have to lug around.

2) Do not over react. If the first few days are a little rough, try not to over react. I will try.

3) Acknowledge anxiety over a bad experience the previous year (e.g. bullying, difficulty with academics or making friends). Contact the school to confirm that the problem has been or will be addressed. Hm. N/A, for most of us, I hope!

4) Arrange play dates or get-togethers with some of your child’s classmates before school starts and during the first weeks of school to help your child reestablish positive social relationships with peers. Oh yeah, I got this one. My school psych friends and I have been taking weekly walks together all summer. It is good to remember that you will see your super-colleagues again soon and get to socialize.

5) If problems arise, you may want to contact the school to set up an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher and school psychologist. They may be able to offer support or suggest other resources. Oh, that’s me. Um, yeah, I guess I need to work on sprucing up my janitor’s closet to be ready. Here’s hoping for a rodent and vermin free school year!

Please, please, post your own Back to School Tips. I am in Phase 4 just thinking about it.

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