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We turned to Mary Lynn Trotter, a counsellor and social worker in Toronto, for some tips on how parents can help make the transition a little smoother. Here are her strategies for getting your kids geared up for class, from having the homework talk to setting that alarm again after a long carefree summer.
1. Normalize a new school routine by doing a practice run
Take the nerve-wracking aspect out of the first day of school by doing a dry run of what your child should expect. Seeing the building, or meeting a new teacher or principal can make the transition a lot easier.
"Take them to the yard, let them play in the playground and let them walk around the building," suggests Trotter. "If you go in during the last week of August, the principals are actually there. Say hello and explain that you're walking around getting used to the place," she says.
2. Have the homework talk
Homework battles are often the most foreboding part of school, for both you and your child. There's no need for either of you to feel overwhelmed. Take the intimidation out of homework by letting your child know that you'll handle it as a team and go easy on each other.
"Don't be afraid of sticking a Post-it note on your kids' homework that reads: ‘This is what we're pleased with accomplishing this week.' Never feel bad about handing back a partially done homework assignment," says Trotter. "Teachers appreciate that you've at least sat down with your kids and tried it."
Make this the year you take the homework pressure off so your child can focus on what really matters: Learning the material.
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover four more ways to get your kids ready for the school year on page 2.
3. Create a dedicated homework space
Having a space where kids can go to concentrate on their homework is important for the development of good work habits. "It's like a routine. Kids thrive on routine," says Trotter, who suggests setting aside a little space such as a desk.
"Or, if they don't have a desk, plan to have them do homework at the kitchen table while Mom is making dinner. You want to have an eye on your child without hovering over them," she advises. "You want to send the message that you're there if they need you."
Create a reading nook where your child will want to spend time, and you'll find your little scholar is more likely to study independently.
4. Devise a plan that works for both you and your child
Agendas are encouraged in classrooms for good reason: Being organized and motivated is a lot easier when you have a plan. Before creating one, talk to your child so you can negotiate a schedule that works for both of you.
"Some parents might come home from work and think it's time to buckle down and do homework, but they don't recognize that it might be their child's low time of the day," says Trotter. "That's why there are so many battles when parents try to get kids to do homework at their worst possible mental time. Try to pay attention to when your kids are at their best," she advises.
5. Be firm about school routines at home
When you tell your child it's time for a new schedule to take effect, be clear and concise so they know what's expected of them. "It's about putting some boundaries and rules back in place," says Trotter. Explain that it's time to get back into the September schedule by moving back into routines, she advises. Consider buying a whiteboard or large calendar so everyone in the family can see and contribute to the schedule.
6. Gradually set bedtime earlier
While it's important to be firm about a new routine, it's equally important to introduce the change gradually. One area where this is especially important is bedtime. "Set their bedtime a bit earlier, about 15 minutes, every single night. So if they were going to bed at 10, try to aim for 9:45. Then, the next night, aim for 9:30, and move it back bit by bit," advises Trotter. "Take about two weeks to transition to the start of school and let your child know what you're doing." Give your child enough time to adapt, physically and mentally, and that first month of school will be easier on the whole family.
Being nervous or uninspired about getting back to school is normal for children. Let your children know you're there to help and they'll feel more confident. By introducing the earlier bedtime slowly, creating a more organized timetable and allowing kids to get an advanced lay of the land at school, you'll help them combat the jitters.
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