Education

Less than two weeks until school starts! Take these steps now to ease opening-day stress

Back-to-school shopping is a great time to teach your children budgeting skills, according to one University of Florida expert.
Back-to-school shopping is a great time to teach your children budgeting skills, according to one University of Florida expert. El Nuevo Herald

Set your alarms. Sharpen your pencils. The dog days of summer are nearly over.

Whether families have spent their summer in faraway destinations or at home in South Florida, they’ll soon be back to the everyday routine of school. That means sending off children to new teachers, new friends, and new expectations as they grow one grade older.

The change of pace can be tough for kids to readjust. Diana Converse, a family life educator with the University of Florida, suggests getting kids back into the flow of a routine weeks before school starts — meaning right about now.

Public school starts in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties on Aug. 21. Children don’t often understand the concept of time, but they do understand routines, she said, and setting them ahead of time is the key — particularly for elementary school ages.

“Their behaviors are going to be better,” said Converse, who teaches parenting and child care provider trainings at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Service in Hillsborough County. “They are going to know what’s next — what to expect.”

“Kids thrive on that rather than chaos.”

Converse advises parents to start slowly waking their kids up earlier two to three weeks before school starts. After a few weeks of incrementally waking up earlier, children will be more prepared to wake up on time for school. She also advises to allow for extra time in the morning to avoid feeling rushed.

Another recommendation: teach children to take responsibility.

“You teach children how to take care of themselves and what is going to be necessary for their day,” said Converse. “As kids get older, they are more ready and capable of taking care of themselves a little bit more.”

For instance, said Converse, teach them how to pack their own lunches, set their own alarms, and other organizational skills.

“That helps children take control of their education,” she said.

The back-to-school season is also an opportunity to teach children budgeting skills, Converse added. School supplies or new clothes add up quickly, so ask the children what they need and give them a budget. Children are capable of understanding the cost of things, and this process can teach them budgeting and financial management.

Budgeting “teaches them money is not endless for most of us, and that when you choose to purchase something, it generally means you are choosing not to purchase something else,” she said. “Being a good consumer can start very early.”

Converse also stresses to encourage kids to read. Parents should read the same book as their child to facilitate discussion, such as what your child likes about it or what would they do if they were a certain character in the book.

A bedtime routine is also essential, and the less time in front of a computer or cell-phone screen, the better, she said. In her own parenting classes, Converse said she often asks how much time children need to sleep. Typically, 80 to 90 percent of parents will guess wrong.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children aged 6 to 12 to sleep nine to 12 hours per day, and teenagers 13 to 18 to sleep eight to 10 hours per day.

Parents play a crucial role in preparing children for another year of school as well, said Converse. Being involved in their children’s education in a positive way can make all the difference during the transition back to school.

“A parent’s positive attitude is very important.”

@sydneyp1234

Get enough sleep!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children aged 6 to 12 to sleep nine to 12 hours per day, and teenagers 13 to 18 to sleep eight to 10 hours per day.

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