Written by : Susie Wolbe, Ed.D. 

3 Tips for a Low-Stress Start to the School Year

The last weeks of summer—before the typical school-time scheduling overload begins—are a good time for families to evaluate what went right during the previous school year, and what could have gone more smoothly. Take a minute to think about those details in order to improve your planning for the year to come.

For your first step, make a “Family Mission Statement.” Write down what you want to accomplish this school year, both for your family as a whole and for each person individually, and discuss your top goals.

Do you want to spend more time eating dinner together? Does your son want to apply and get accepted to college this year? Would your daughter like to join the swim team? Or do the kids need less scheduling and more free time? These goals will help determine how you address some of the problems below.

Problem 1: Chaotic first days of school

The first few days are the hardest. Here are my tips for getting back on track after those lazy days of summer.

  • Modify your kids’ schedule during the two weeks before school starts. This means an earlier bedtime as well as an earlier wake-up time.
  • Review and revise your summer technology-use rules. Do they still apply now that school is starting?
  • Create a “charging station” in an area away from the kids’ rooms. (Beginning at a designated time each night, kids bring their devices and plug them in at that area—and screen time is over.  Plus, the devices are fully charged and ready for use the next day.)

Problem 2: Homework

I hear a lot from parents about how difficult it is to get their kids to sit down and finish their homework. Here are a few time-tested tips for getting back into the routine.

  • Make sure others in the house know to be respectful and quiet when someone is doing homework.
  • Create a designated home study area.
  • Gather all materials necessary to complete any type of assignment, and keep those materials in the study area (this will keep a child from having to get up and search for something in the middle of working on an assignment, and since brain research tells us that it can take more than 20 minutes to get back on topic after a distraction, we want to avoid one at all costs).
  • Find a container to hold all the supplies in case the study area is in a space commonly used for other things, such as a kitchen table or den. The container can then be quickly and easily moved when needed.
  • Include a timer with the study materials to easily determine 20-minute study periods and five-minute break periods for getting a snack, using the restroom or quick mental or physical breaks.

Problem 3: Extracurricular scheduling

Ask yourself the following questions as you organize extracurricular activities for the coming year:

  • Last year, did your kids did have ample time for homework, hanging out with family and friends and extracurricular activities?
  • What were the logistical and financial implications for your family?
  • Is the activity an outgrowth of your child’s passion and desire, or is this something you want for your child for other reasons?
  • How many activities can you reasonably take on? What are the pros and cons of each one?

I hope these suggestions will provide a framework for a more realistic and positive start to the school year! Take it one day at a time, and remember: even baby steps taken one after the other will result in a change of course.

Good luck!

Susie Wolbe, Ed.D., is an experienced educator who writes frequently about mindfulness and positive education. Her most recent book is The Empowered Teacher: Proven Tips for Classroom Success.

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