Editor’s note: The Collaborative Youth Team is a partnership of 24 youth and family service organizations and agencies that are here to serve you. Each month, a different partner will offer practical tips for restoring balance within our families and for building resiliency in our youth. This month’s column is shared by Rachel Weiss, supervisor of social work services for Naperville Community Unit School District 203.
It’s that time again! Time to say goodbye to the long, hot, lazy days of summer, and welcome in the cool, refreshing, busy days of fall. Best of all, it’s back-to-school time! The start of the school year is a great time to establish, or re-establish, healthy and positive habits.
Here are a few tips to help set the stage for a great year:
A week or so before the start of the school year, implement the “school-year” bedtime. This will help get children accustomed to “early to bed, early to rise.” According to the National Sleep Foundation, (www.sleepfoundation.org) school-aged children need between 10 and 11 hours of sleep a night; teens need eight to nine hours. This can be difficult as activities and homework demands increase, but it is so important!
“Get ready” each evening to help alleviate the early morning scramble! The night before, make lunches, pick out clothes, and load the backpack, ensuring that homework, permission slips, and other important papers, are safely inside. Having your child help with these tasks, even at a younger age, is a great way to teach age-appropriate independence and responsibility.
For some children, having visual checklists posted in their room or on the refrigerator can help establish after-school, evening and morning routines … and parents won’t need to give constant reminders! (Wash face — check! Brush teeth — check! Lunch in the backpack — check! You get the idea.)
Children need a healthy breakfast every day. Brains need energy and fuel to learn and maintain focus. Even those teens who claim, “I’m not hungry, I’m in a hurry!” need something. Have easy-to-grab options available for them, such as yogurt, fruit and granola bars.
Establish a daily homework routine after school, during which time TV, video games, and phones are off limits. (Even if they grumble, try to be as consistent as possible with this.) Create a quiet, distraction-free homework zone, where students have easy access to everything they need, eliminating reasons to procrastinate.
Encourage your child to get involved in school activities. Getting involved is one of the strongest factors in students feeling connected to their schools and peers. There are many different opportunities to meet a variety of interests. Many won’t like a new activity after the first time; try to get them to commit to going at least three times.
Unfortunately, school is not always an easy place for all students. If you notice that your child is having difficulties, or they seem to be struggling in different areas of academics or peer relationships, please reach out to the school.
There are many people, including teachers, social workers, counselors and other support staff, who can provide support, assistance and resources. It is a team effort, and parents are an important part of that team.
This column is courtesy of KidsMatter, Collaborative Youth Team facilitator. To access the community resource guide and partner contact information, visit www.KidsMatter2us.org.