The new backpack and school supplies are ready for action. Shiny new shoes sit in the closet and pressed uniforms hang in neat rows. But are you and your child mentally prepared for the start of a new school year? Child mental-health experts say making a gradual return to your school-year routine will put your kids in the proper mindset to return to the classroom.
Here are their tips for the days before school starts:• Transition your routine. Start limiting the kids’ computer, video gaming and television time. Pretend school has started, and don't stay out late shopping or dining, says Vera Joffe, a licensed psychologist in Coral Springs who specializes in children's issues.
Start earlier bedtimes now.
"The older the child, the more likely they will want to stay up later and sleep in," said Mitch Spero, a licensed psychologist and director of Child & Family Psychologists in Plantation and Weston. "The key is starting the process early, not the night before school starts."
• Review lessons. If you can buy your child's textbooks before school starts, or if you have some workbooks at home, have them review some lessons and they'll walk in class ahead of the game, Spero says.
• Read. "If your child hasn't been reading over the summer, get them back into the habit by having them read 15 to 20 minutes a day," Spero says.
• Make it fun. Going from the lazy days of summer to a super-packed school schedule can be overwhelming. Michelle Goldberg, a Cooper City children's counselor, suggests having young kids make a colorful calendar page they can decorate and mark with their upcoming school and club activities. Older kids can create one on the computer. "Then you can say, ‘Can you believe all of the wonderful things we have planned?’ '' she said.
• Slowly roll out a new plan. "Don't sit down and say ‘We have an early bedtime, and you have to read for 15 minutes and let's make a calendar!' '' Goldberg said. "Gradually wean them to the new routine." Practice laying out clothes and making lunches at night.
• Have a positive attitude. Sometimes a parent's anxiety -- What teacher will my child have? Will he know any of the kids? -- can rub off on the child. "Kids are very affected by the way a parent reacts," Joffe said. "So maintain a positive attitude -- ‘I'm so excited that you're starting a new school.’ ''
• Soothe their anxieties. Help them to know what to expect, just as if they were going to the dentist or having surgery, and take away some of the unknown. Lessening the unknown will lessen the anxiety, Joffe said.
• Go to school orientation. "A parent and child should go to orientation together," Spero said. "Walk the hallways. Find out where the bathrooms, the library and the lockers are."
• Organize. Set up specific places for backpacks, lunchboxes and school papers. Set up a routine for school days and stick to it.
• Tweak your own routine. Parents often slip into their own summer schedule. You may have to turn in earlier and get in the habit of stocking lunch staples, said Goldberg, a mom of three. "The less stressed we are, the less stress we impose on our children," she said. "If we're not taking care of ourselves, how can we help others?"