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?
"Simply trying to get a child to put down a game and go sit in his or her room alone to read typically won't happen. It's just not stimulating enough for some kids. But if you, your spouse or any other member of the family can turn reading into a fun time that can be shared together, then your child will most likely want to read. To keep their interest, turn reading into a game. Try asking him how many details he can recall from a particular paragraph, page or chapter, and keep count. Let your child test you on the details, too, and have a fun wager with a creative prize for the winner. Five correct answers may equal an ice cream, say. The bottom line is that if kids don't see you, the parent, reading, chances are that they won't be interested either.
Ensuring that your child's attitude is positive-and stays positive-is really as simple as checking your own attitude and reactions to the situations around you. Very often parents are so busy trying to steady the balancing act of life, they don't realize they are not promoting positive energy and reinforcement within their own home. When you hear your child gossiping about another child, remind her that she would not like to hear such negativity about herself. Growing up we were never allowed to call someone 'stupid' or 'dumb.' Negative words were never welcomed in our home without some sort of reprimand. Maybe this is too much like Little House on the Prairie, but my brothers and I, still to this day, are very positive people who have no use for gossip or negativity. Today it is even easier for your child to spread negativity around-all he or she has to do is text away. With that in mind, maybe you should check their texts every now and then (you are paying for it, after all!).
During our annual August school-supply shopping trip, my mom would always check if I read all the books on my required reading list. If that was a no (and most of the time it was a no) she took the opportunity to tell me that pool time was shortened every day so I could catch up. We did a lot of talking about what my next grade would be like, and somehow she always managed to find a girl who had just finished the grade I was entering to give me a workload heads-up. The combination of these things kick-started me into a back-to-school mode. Our summer nights gradually got shorter and play time ended right before dinner. What I did not realize then that I do now was my mother was unwinding us from our carefree summer mode and getting us ready for school in her own mommy way. Each parent will have their own method for this, but I think it's that universal shopping of the backpack that puts it all in motion for everyone."
-Annette Vallone-Rocchio, owner, Precious Moments Preschool, Whitestone, and Landrum School of Dance, Flushing
"First: Try not to plan a vacation where the child comes back and is off to school the following Monday. Usually a 2-week separation from the end of the family vacation to the start of school will give sufficient time for a child to adjust.
It is also very important to regulate children's sleep patterns, as their circadian rhythms are probably off-synch due to the summer break. Depending on the child, it would be a good idea to slowly begin setting their bedtimes to an earlier hour one to two weeks prior to the start of school. Though there is no magical number of hours of sleep a child should get, 9 to 10 hours of sleep per night is generally recommended. Of course, if you have a teenager all bets are off!
Taking your child "back to school shopping" a week before school starts is a subtle reminder to them of what's imminent. Nothing says I am going back to school like going to the local stationery/office superstore and picking up pencils, pens, notebooks and other supplies.
Having children read a few books over the summer also helps, as it keeps their minds and imaginations engaged. Let them choose the topic to read (it should be fun for them). Reading something is always better than not reading!
Lastly, talk with your children: Start a conversation to see if they have anything that may be bothering them, and let them know that you will always be there to back them up if needed."
-Kan Chan, director, Chyten Educational Services of Bayside
"If your child enjoys reading, that's great-find books or magazines that will engage him and make him eager to read. If sports is his thing, offer a sports magazine or book. You want to make learning fun and enjoyable.
Having a positive attitude and being upbeat always helps, not only in school but in life. If you instill positive values in your children and motivate them regularly, that will trickle back into their schoolwork as well.
Taking a road trip and looking for some things to do? Take books of trivia games and quizzes with you-not only will it pass the time, but your kids will gain information and knowledge, too."
-Jason Pick, manager, Carol School Supply, Flushing
"Every child has good habits and bad habits. Laziness, unfortunately, is one bad habit that is easy to fall into quickly-and it's not easy to change! So it's important to encourage your children to maintain the good habits they developed during the schoolyear. Homework was done every day. Keep a summer routine by making sure some portion of the day is devoted to "left brain" activity. Keep it simple, pleasant, and matter-of-fact. Encourage reading for pleasure, and read the book before suggesting it so you can discuss the story with your child. Create a habit of 'don't leave the house without a book.'
You can also make up games to improve your child's focus. When in the car, for example, encourage your child to look for license plates that are not from the state you are driving through, making it a competition who will find the most; or add numbers on license plates to see who can do it fastest.
Keep bedtime and wakeup times similar to during the schoolyear. Spend more time outside. Read in the park (not by the playground). Keep your children interested in science. Connect them to nature and make them understand that all that is around us is science. Together, look for examples and record findings in a daily journal. Summer is the time when your children's rooms should be well-organized and they can have some extra responsibility around the house. Every day do something for others. Share about it in your journal.
If you don't take a break, you don't have to start all over. Just use summer to create some new, good habits and enjoy your child!"
-Alina Pikula, manager, Power Brain Training Center, Bayside