Going back to school comes with its own set of trials and choices. Should you be worried if your kindergartner returns from the first day of school distraught because he didnt make any friends? And how do you know if your sixth-grader is juggling too many after-school activities?
What if youve made it safely through the first 18 years, but youre now faced with saying goodbye to your college freshman, away from home and on her own for the first time?
We picked some of the more common topics you might have questions about for the new school year and asked educators, counselors, librarians and nutritionists for their suggestions and recommendations.
BITE INTO HEALTHY EATING
If your child buys school lunch and actually eats it, the National School Lunch program has your child covered on the healthy eating front, at least for one meal. With new school lunch standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture daily fruit and vegetable offerings, more whole grains and less sodium, among other changes schools that participate in the federally assisted meals program will begin providing more nutritional options. These updated standards went into effect in July and will be phased in during the next three years.
During other meal times, healthy eating habits come from parents. Here are some suggestions:
Children from ages 4 to 7 should have three meals and two snacks each day; older children should eat only one snack.
Helping to cook meals is fun and rewarding for kids; they are more likely to try and like the foods they make.
Good after-school snack options: crackers with peanut butter, vegetables with hummus dip, half of a peanut butter sandwich, yogurt with fruit in it. Snacks should include protein to reduce hunger.
MAKE A FRIEND, SHED THE BULLY
Its perfectly normal for children to be nervous about talking to other students during the first few weeks of school. If your child is shy during this adjustment period and doesnt appear to be making many friends, dont get discouraged help her overcome her fears and gain confidence about classroom interaction. Some tips:
Before the school year starts: If possible, arrange play dates with future classmates so that your child knows someone on the first day of school, which can make her feel more comfortable.
During the school year: If your elementary-age child has trouble making friends, try role-playing with her using puppets, dolls or just yourself. If your child is in middle school, try talking to her about her anxiety and reminding her how she made her old friends.
Resolving a disagreement: Coach your child about compromising while playing with another classmate and teach her to offer solutions: Well, instead of this way, lets do it that way.
Facing a bully: Chances are good that a strong relationship with parents will help a bullied child open up and explain what is going on at school. Explain to your child that the bully is at fault and that she should stand up to the bully.
Experiencing ongoing shyness: If your child still hasnt made friends months into the school year, it might be time for her to go to the school counselor or see a child psychologist.
EMPTYING THE NEST
Teenagers arent the only ones who face a whopper of an adjustment period when they head off to college. These tips can help parents and freshmen adjust to the change:
Attend the orientation for parents to become familiar with the university and its website. Students are bombarded with information at their orientation sessions and often cant retain it all it, so you can help your child by keeping brochures and remembering campus resources.
Step back and take the time to take care of yourself. A crucial part of adjusting to home life without a child is finding hobbies and activities that you enjoy.
Foster your childs independence but still remain connected and supportive. Its important to keep in mind that your son or daughter is an emerging adult who needs space to grow.
STRAIGHT FROM A TEACHERS MOUTH
Meet and talk to the teacher within the first couple weeks of school (trying to talk on Meet the Teacher Night and the first day of class arent the best times because so many are parents coming in).
Teach your kid it is their job to go to school and to work hard. The paycheck is their report card.
STUDY WELL, MY CHILD
Study skills are like time management skills: They are learned with practice. With a simple trip to the store, parents can help their children develop this habit. Sounds fun, right?
Well even provide a shopping list:
A planner with enough space to write down the days assignments and when theyre due.
Organized folders and binders, as well as other school supplies that the teacher asks for, to make assignments easily accessible.
A clean backpack that contains only the days essentials.
A desk or table that serves as the designated study area.
Highlighters and flashcards to use as study tools.
Some type of reward to give your child for maintaining a steady studying schedule.
GET A GOLD STAR IN THE TUTOR SEARCH
Before seeking tutoring for your child, do your homework to make sure your child gets the best possible help and attention.
Identify the subject giving your child the most difficulty. Additionally, be aware of your childs preferred learning style hands-on learning or a one-on-one lesson with the teacher, for example.
Before signing up, look into the free extra-help programs at your childs school.
Be picky about the type of tutoring you want for your child; ask prospective tutors how they plan to personalize their lesson plans.
Make sure that your child has the time for regular tutoring sessions. Students might need an average of two to four hours of supplementary instruction each week.
If students cant fit extra tutoring into their busy schedules during the school year, consider summertime learning instead.
AVOID THE PACKED SCHEDULE TRAP
Only one or two after-school activities per week might be enough, until your child proves they can handle more.
PENCIL IN FAMILY TIME
Families should set aside one day on the weekend to spend together, or at least make sure to clear time for dinner on week nights.
Parents might want to try family movie nights or family game nights.
A. Take away TV, video games or computers an hour before bedtime? B. Avoid letting your child have a caffeinated beverage after lunch? C. Add a routine, such as showering and reading a book, right before sleep? D. Do all of the above.
Answer: D. Taking away electronics that keep him wired, as well as limiting drinks with caffeine in them, like soda, after a certain point in the day, will help your child start winding down. Adding a simple bedtime routine will signify when its time to fall asleep.