Starting the school year is usually pretty cool! I mean everything is new – new book bag, new clothes, fresh school supplies. I can still smell those new crayons, can’t you? But once the school year gets underway, reality hits and life can get stressful. And too often, by May, all you can think about is surviving the last few days in one piece!
I think that a dose of careful planning with the goal of helping your child have a successful school year will go a long way towards reducing this stressful downhill slide. Here are 10 Tips to guide you towards a successful, happy school year. Some of this you might already be doing – if so, awesome! Other things might be new and will take a bit of time for everyone to adjust to. But the end result will make it worth the adjustment!
Make sure your child gets plenty of water. This is critical for optimal brain function. I know a lot of people are not fond of drinking water, but there are ways around that. One great way to get your child drinking water and even getting some good nutrition is by using a pitcher that infuses fruits and veggies into the water, making for a pleasing taste. Of course during school hours it will be more difficult to make sure your child is hydrated, but it is worth talking with your child’s teacher to see if something can be worked out.
Proper diet. Because I am a mother and grandmother, I am not naïve about kids and their eating preferences! But we are the adults and we can begin to instill good eating habits a bit at a time. Some tips for helping your children down more veggies and fruits and less sugar and snacks is to find their favorite veggies, find a dip that they love, and incorporate this into homework time or after school snack. Ideas? Ranch dressing, hummus, and catsup. Try cold cucumber slices, cherry or grape tomatoes, raw cauliflower chunks, carrots or celery to dip in hummus, soft cheese or ranch dressing.
Enough sleep. Routine and schedule are your friends. Have a set bedtime and stick to it. Turn off media about an hour before bedtime to ensure your child’s brain has time to quiet before going to bed. Try a warm bath, a book read together, any good routine that calms and comforts your child before he or she goes to sleep. A tired child will not be well-prepared for school!
Plenty of physical activity. So much is said about the need for vigorous physical activity to counter obesity, but just as important is the need for active play in order to get the various regions in the brain communicating well which is critical to good functioning in school. Also, active play helps the body acquire oxygen, helps a child feel good mentally and emotionally, and will prepare a child for a good night’s sleep.
Limit technology. Again, I am well aware of the pull of technology to kids these days, and also am very aware of how the educational community is pushing technology as a teaching tool. The truth about technology and children’s brains, however, dictates that we limit exposure to technology that has quickly changing images, that “talks” to the child, that enables the child to be pretty much passive in the process, that limits choices and options, that keeps the child’s eyes glued to its one dimensional surface. All of those elements inherent to technology are going to work counter to the child’s brain development and his or her ability to problem-solve, take initiative, and function well during school. Much better to begin to wean your child off this sort of entertainment and introduce leisure activities that require the child to figure something out, problem solve, build, or create.
Try for balance. In our over-scheduled society, it is easy to live a life out of balance. A child especially needs to have balance in his or her life. There needs to be time for active play, for work, for free play, for family, for eating, for teamwork, and for school. His or her schedule should not be filled so full that life consists of rushing from one thing to the next. Sports and other extracurricular activities should be chosen with care, making sure that those things fall within the realm of what the child is good at, what he or she enjoys, and not just for the purpose of creating a child who is “well rounded” and a high achiever.
Create an enticing, cozy homework spot. Personally I am not a fan of homework. My belief is that if I do a good job as a teacher during the day, homework will serve no purpose beyond lengthening the day miserably for the young child. If I could run the world, I would make it so that every child’s homework was to have a healthy snack and then to have two hours of active free play. I truly believe this would do far more than the two hours of laborious and often pointless homework that kids today bring home. Do whatever it takes to make homework not a dreaded stressful way to spend the time between school and bedtime.
Make a point to find your child’s bliss. There is absolutely nothing in the world that will motivate your child to work very hard and persistently than to find out what makes him turned on and happy - what he or she is passionate about. Become a child-watcher who picks up on the smallest of clues as to what is interesting to the child and then fan those little flames by providing opportunities for deepening those passions. This is not the time for beginning to push your child down a path of your choosing. Once your child has firmly in mind what his or her future could be, he or she will overcome any obstacle to get there.
Find out what is hard for your child. Because school is a one-size-fits-all operation, the majority of children have times of real struggle with what is required. You cannot always impact what happens in school, but you can make up for much of it at home. While you are mining to discover your child’s bliss or passion, also pay attention to what is hard. Children in school are expected to all learn the same way and become masters of everything. So don’t just assume that your child needs to work harder or review more if trouble rears its head. No. At the first sign of trouble, get some help and advice about how that same “hard stuff” can be delivered in a way that is compatible with your child’s natural neural wiring. We are here to help you.
Respect your child as a fully formed person who was beautifully designed. Adults have the luxury of being able to specialize according to their strengths. They can choose career paths that highlight their strengths. They are encouraged to follow their bliss and find what makes them happy. Let’s give our children the same respect and consideration we assume for ourselves. If you have one child or ten, each one is perfectly created and should be respected for exactly who they are. Respect for the individual and acknowledgement of who they really are will go a long way towards empowering your child in everything he or she does.
Let’s have a wonderful school year, shall we?
Sarah K Major