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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Kick Off A Stress-Free School Year

Jun 26, 2006 12:00AM

For many children, the first day of school doesn’t just mean new teachers and new friends; it can also be a source of anxiety with homework assignments and tests just around the corner.

Fortunately, starting the year off on the right foot can help minimize a child’s stress levels throughout the year. Parents can help their children ease anxiety and make a smooth transition from summer to school by discussing the year ahead, teaching organization and starting a school routine early in the year.

Back to School Tips:

  1. Get back in the routine. Ease transition from lazy summer days to the structure of the school year by re-establishing bedtime, mealtime, and reading and homework routines. Talk with your child about the importance of these routines and how they help ensure that he is not overtired or overly anxious about schoolwork or the next day of school.
  2. Set education goals. Help your child set goals at the very beginning of the year. Whether it is striving for an A in reading, handing in all homework on time or preparing for tests well in advance, setting goals can help set the routine for the new year.
  3. Develop a relationship with your child’s teacher. Take the time to meet your child’s teacher at the beginning of the school year. She can be the best source for information about your child’s scholastic performance and can recommend ways to help your child or resolve any difficulties he is having.
  4. Homework routine and place. Designate specific time and place for homework time and help your child discover a regular, quiet place where he can study. Make sure that the area is free from potential distractions and that study tools are at your child’s fingertips to keep him focused on homework and studying.
  5. Stay on schedule. Your child should keep a schedule of all classes, assignments and key dates, such as project deadlines and test dates. As part of that schedule, she should include specific times for studying, projects and extracurricular activities. This will minimize late nights completing homework assignments, cramming for tests at the last minute, and ultimately reduce student anxiety about school.
  6. Emphasize organization. For some students, having color-coded binders for each subject helps them stay on track throughout the school year. Keeping notes organized helps test preparation later in the year, so work with your child to determine the best method for him.
  7. Encourage learning at home. Promoting learning outside of the classroom helps children perform better in school. To nurture reading skills spend at least one hour per week—10 to 15 minutes a day—reading with your child. To enhance math proficiency, try letting your child help plan the next family trip and encourage him to compute miles, cost of gas, expenses for food, hotel and entertainment.

Transition Year Back-to-School Tips (Children Starting Kindergarten, First Grade, Middle School or High School):

  1. Visit the school. If your child is changing schools with the new year, make a special trip together to visit the school before the first day of classes. Checking out the new classroom and the new teacher before school starts will help ease feelings of anxiety and help get your child into the academic routine. If it’s available, review the class schedule with your child and prepare him for the new grade.
  2. Discuss changes in routine. Talk with your child about how the routine for his new school may differ from the previous year. It can be difficult for children to adjust to changes in schedules and workload. Explain how his schedule may differ from last year. Will there be more homework assignments? Does he have to wake up earlier? Will he have more than one teacher this year?
  3. Provide extra support. When starting the new school year, especially if it’s a transition year, a little extra support can’t hurt. Talk with your child about her fears regarding school and maintain an open dialogue throughout the year. Discuss what subjects she’s anticipating and any areas she finds particularly challenging.
  4. Transition into kindergarten. Kindergarten is your child’s introduction to elementary school and a first opportunity to learn basic math and reading skills, not to mention a first look at routines and expectations of group learning. As a parent, you are your child's first teacher. The skills that he learns from you—how to get along with others, follow directions and listen to directions —will help him start the year off right.
  5. Transition into middle school and high school. Transitioning from elementary to middle school or from middle school to high school can bring many questions and concerns. Organization becomes even more important in middle school and high school when your child must keep track of multiple subjects, homework, teachers, classrooms and books. You can help him to reduce stress by giving him a calendar/planner to help him organize these new items and encouraging him to build good study habits.