While we all cling to summer and its reality of easygoing schedules for as long as we possibly can, the days are growing shorter and the schoolyear is right around the corner. "Many kids are excited about seeing friends they haven't seen since June, but some find it hard to adjust to the new schedule when they are so accustomed to the carefree cadence of summer," observes Kan Chen, director of Chyten Education Services in Bayside. But from transitioning your kids' sleep schedules in advance to maintaining some of the good habits they developed during the previous schoolyear, there are things you can do to help them get their groove back. We asked local experts:
How can I help my child ease the transition from summer to back-to-school?
"Begin by doing some things together that encourage school readiness. Go to the public library to look at books and sign them out. Be sure to read to or with your child every day. If your child is old enough, discuss his/her goals for this coming school year (be the class president, play a sport, etc). Put those goals on paper and hang in your child's room or on the refrigerator.
Visit the school beforehand, particularly if there is a new building, new gardens, or any type of facility that may be exciting or unfamiliar to your child.
To ensure a positive attitude about school, focus on this year. Don't say 'maybe you'll do better than last year'-last year is over!
And when classes begin, take an interest in what they are learning; don't just ask, 'Did you do your homework?' In my family we planned weekend day trips around what the kids were studying in school. Studying Teddy Roosevelt? Go to Buffalo to see his Inaugural National Historic site, or show them the townhouse in New York City (at 28 East 20th Street) where he grew up-make it come alive for your child. In general, your interest in what they are doing makes it more worthwhile for them.
Remember: Studies show that the most important person in a child's life through elementary school is not the teacher; it's YOU!"
-Dr. Ray Ann Havasy, director, Center for Science Teaching and Learning (CSTL), Rockville Centre
"Feeling confident to be able to initiate and maintain friendships will give your child the foundation for a successful schoolyear. Having playdates with children who may be in your child's class and having other interactions with children and adults in the school may help with the transition. Social and emotional well-being always enhances academic performance."
-Adena Moss and Elaine Winograd, owners, Friend Zone, Rockville Centre
"It can be helpful to implement a daily schedule one to two weeks before school starts that is similar to the child's daily schedule they follow when they attend school. If breakfast is at 8 am and dinner is at 6 pm during the school year, meals should be served at those times now. Some families find it helpful for their child to follow a daily schedule throughout the summer. Students also need a good night's sleep in order to be available for learning throughout the school day. Getting up in the morning and going to bed at times that mirror the schedule followed when the child is in school can ease the change that comes in September.
Incorporating family reading time into the day is a strategy which can encourage a child to read. This activity can be implemented before school begins and it can be a specific time each day or several days a week, even if it's for a brief period of time. Young children can help make a book corner in the house where everyone can sit to read. Children model what their parents do, and living with a parent who values and enjoys reading can motivate and encourage reading.
Homework is usually given in small amounts as the school year begins. Incorporating homework into a daily schedule may make it easier for the child to accept. Some children are able to focus better doing homework right after they arrive home, while other students are more focused when they do their work after a break. Parents need to assess the demands of the new school year as well, because what worked last year may not work as well for the child with the new school year.
Children should be given the opportunity to meet with a new teacher and to see their new classroom if possible before the official start. Many schools offer student orientations to incoming students to introduce them to their new buildings and their peers. Bus orientations are also often offered, which can be helpful for the child who has never ridden a bus. If possible, play dates with new classmates can also help a child feel comfortable and excited about their new class."
-Cecelia Lynch, social worker and intake coordinator, Mill Neck Manor Early Childhood Center
"It is quite normal for a child to experience a range of emotions about returning to school after a relaxing summer vacation. To help your child transition from summer to back-to-school, here are a few tips:
Should social worries come up in conversation, listen and calmly provide assurance.
Go shopping for school supplies with your child and let him make the choice about certain supplies needed, such as the color of looseleaf paper. Then gather the supplies and pack your child's backpack a couple of days before school starts.
Get a class list and set up a playdate with a classmate during the summer. You can also set up an appointment to take a tour of the school to help with familiarity.
Set up a special homework/study area in the home."
-Rhonda Boltax, teacher, Keys To Reading, Inc., Great Neck
"Easing children back into school can be challenging-but not impossible, I promise! One of the most important transitions for your children is the shift back to a quieter, less stimulating evening routine. In summer, activities get pushed later into the night. With barbecues, kickball games, ice cream trucks, evenings at the beach and endless playtime, kids just seem to conk out by the end of a long summer's day. Bedtime routines seem to fly out the window during these easy, breezy days. By the time September rolls around (and all too quickly!), it can feel like we have to start from scratch, figuring out how to reign in the good times. So how do we help our children do a 360-degree turn, moving back to studies, routine and responsibility?
The very best tip I've learned is this: About ten days before school starts, slowly begin to reduce the amount of time that your children stay up at night. Go back to their old school routines, working back towards the bedtime you've chosen for them during the academic year. Begin to incorporate the different steps they can take each night to get there, which means a specific order from which to prepare for sleep. Dinner, down time, bath time, teeth brushing, bedtime stories . . . begin to put these elements into place each night, using consistency and clear guidelines for doing so. Avoid anything stimulating to the senses. This includes sugar, high-intensity tv shows or movies, and a game of hide and seek! Children need to wind down, way down, so that they can rest and rejuvenate body, mind and spirit."
-Julie Cohen, LCSW, family and couples therapist, www.MagicSeedsLiving.com, Great Neck
"First: Start early! Don't wait until the week before school to try and change all their summer habits. Begin easing into developing (or reinstating) family meals, stocking your pantry and refrigerator with healthy food choices for scheduled meal times instead of grazing throughout the day. Decrease or set time limits on computer and TV use. If your children have been staying up at night later than during the schoolyear, start having them go to bed a half-hour earlier than they normallly would during the month of August each night until their schoolyear bedtime is achieved. Most 9-13 year olds need 9-12 hours of sleep to concentrate and promote optimal learning in school the next day. If your children are tired and just want to sit and relax at the end of a camp day due to all the physical activity they got, be sure to schedule some after-school sports daily during the schoolyear to keep up their metabolism. If they continue to exercise at least 30-60 minutes a day it will help balance out some of those high-calorie lunches coupled with all the time sitting behind their desks in school."
-Laura Lynn Iacono, pediatric/adolescent registered dietitian, CEO/founder, One Potato Two Tomato, Albertson
"It will already be hard enough the night before the first day, so try to make the final two weeks of summer more structured with a daily routine for wake-ups, mealtimes, etc. Resist the temptation to sleep as late as possible these last two weeks-it's not a good strategy for starting the school year off right. Do not underestimate how important home life is to supporting the school experience. Children feel more secure and self-confident when they know what to expect. Practicing these positive routines over and over contributes to making them a habit that could last a lifetime.
Take younger children to the library to pick out books about starting school and use the stories to encourage positive conversation about it. Have your child tell relatives or friends about their going to school so you can hear what they know and correct any misunderstanding. With older children, discuss what they might want to do differently this coming schoolyear to avoid any difficulties they might have experienced in the past. Set some reasonable goals and write them down to review as the school year progresses. Acknowledge if your children express feelings of insecurity about starting a new class, but reinforce your confidence in their ability to handle it. Give specific examples of things they once found hard and how they are able to do it easily now.
Having a heart-to-heart talk with your grade-, middle- or high-school-age child now about your expectations for the coming school year-homework routines, grades, friends, extracurricular activities-will give you an opportunity to hear about their concerns so you can address them at a leisurely pace before school begins. Have high but realistic standards for your children. Research shows favorable results when parents raise the bar for what they expect, as long as expectations are realistic for your particular child's capabilities. Enthusiasm is contagious, so be sure to maintain your own positive attitude about your child's growing independence and capabilities. You are your child's best and most important cheerleader. This goes a long way to ensuring a successful new school year."
-Karen Horowitz, MA, director, Parenting Resource Network, Friedberg JCC, Oceanside