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4 Ways to Start the School Year off Right

September 17, 2013

By Marcia Hall

The new school year is upon us and as parents gather all the supplies their child will need to start it off on the right foot, they should also focus their attention on healthy routines that will help everyone stay on track though the entire school year.

  • Work with your child before school even starts to come up with your nightly routine.  Some children thrive when they can complete their homework right away and then use the rest of the night to hang out and play.  Other children desperately need some down time before they can focus on homework at all.  Talk to your child about this and come up with an agreement.  Maybe your child wants to be given the freedom to make that choice one day at a time.  If he is old enough and has shown good judgment in the past, giving him this control can really help him to feel responsible. Let him know that this arrangement is dependent on him keeping his agreement to get his work done, but also give him the encouragement he needs to know you believe he’ll succeed.
  • Don’t underestimate the need for relaxation.  It is good for your child to have extracurricular activities but it is equally important that he have some unscheduled time that he is free to do the things he loves to do.  Your child will rarely tell you that he feels he is too busy and needs to stop participating in some activities however his actions will indicate when he has had enough.  Sometimes parents need to help their child make the difficult decisions in regards to activities that are good for him and those that are simply stressing him out.  If it is something that he really loves, work hard to make compromises elsewhere.  If it is something that YOU really want him doing, help him to know that it is ok if he sets that aside and takes some time to relax.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of healthy sleep patterns.  The need for sleep is highly misunderstood by a lot of parents.  It is the first thing to be sacrificed when the schedule gets too full.  But the reality is that teaching your child to get the sleep he needs can be the most valuable gift you can give him.  Enough sleep will help him get sick less often and pay attention more in school, sports and other activities.  It will also help him find the healthy work/life balance that so many adults today lack.  Start a few days before school begins by setting a family bed time.  Obviously adults will not necessarily be going to bed at this time but it can be the time of night where the house simply settles down.  Lights are turned off or dimmed, loud TV shows are turned off and work is put away.
  • Talk to your child about goals for the year.  A great way to get this conversation going is to ask your child what he wants to be when he grows up.   Helping your child understand that the reason for school and homework is to develop skills and habits that will help him in his daily life as he gets bigger.  It is very common for frustrated adolescents to say “why do I need to learn math?  When I grow up I can just use a calculator.”  When parents talk with their child and help him to see that math, reading, science, etc. are useful to every adult it can help the child see the big picture.  Setting a few small and simple goals can be easy from there.  Maybe your child struggled with reading last year.  You can set small goals that will help him feel that he is achieving more.  A child that struggles with spelling can set the goal to get just one 100% on his tests in the first quarter. Achieving that goal will motivate him to try for another goal and soon he will love the feeling of achieving these goals.

The first few weeks of school can help set you up for a great year.  Helping your child build good habits takes a lot of perseverance and support.  Someday you will see the results and you may just receive a thank you for it.


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