Back-to-school is around the corner! Many families are savoring the last days of summer with the understanding that before you know it, it’s back to school, schedules, and routine. Although you may wish just for a couple of extra days before packing lunches and waking before the sun rise, going back to school can be an exciting time. It’s important as a parent to establish a consistent routine and establish a schedule that supports your child’s ultimate functioning and ability to focus and succeed at school.
- Create a schedule and stick to it. As a family, it is helpful to be on the same page. Print out either a monthly schedule, weekly schedule, and/or a daily schedule so you and your children have a visual of what work, responsibilities, or events for which to prepare. A schedule is the best way to help a child stay on task. As a tool for having your child complete their school work, you can create a daily schedule that specifies time each day to work on homework, free time, and pack for school. Schedules work great for children of all ages. For younger children, you can use visual images. You can also laminate the daily schedule and use Velcro pieces to move around the tasks of the day and make the schedule interactive.
- Turn off the technology: Take time as a family to disconnect. Turn off your cell phones, turn off the television, and radio – take time each day as a family to not be distracted by technology. When your child is doing his or her homework, make sure he or she knows technology is not permitted. Understandably, this may be tricky if your child needs to use the computer to complete an assignment, but make sure they know to only work on their assignment during that time. Technology has many perks, but it can also create anxiety for children who may be overly stimulated by the constant flow of information. Not only is it important to have time throughout the day without the distraction of technology, but always turn TV, video games, and internet off at least an hour before bed time to help children prepare for a more restful sleep.
- Get outside! Unfortunately the education system does not support physical education as much as they should. Exercise and spending time outside can help children to exert cooped-up energy in order to better focus on schoolwork. Create a family workout – possibly when your child first gets home from school have them play outside for 20 minutes (biking, swimming, walking) and then sit down to do their homework. Another way is to have the family make the commitment to walk for 15 minutes after dinner together. Not only does this promote a healthy family, but it allows you all to spend time together to talk about your day.
- Celebrate your child’s victories and always acknowledge their progress: It can be very challenging to be a young person these days. The demands from school are ever increasing. The expectation on children to complete several homework assignments, study for quizzes, and create projects is the norm. This work can feel like a lot even to the most academically driven child. Make sure as a parent to always recognize your child’s efforts and complement them when you see them working on their school work. As parents, you are your child’s greatest role model; if you seem engaged and interested in their school work, they will also be engaged and interested in it. Set up a star sheet and use stickers or other incentives to mark your child’s progress. For example, you can add a sticker each week your child received an A or B on their spelling test. Then when the sticker chart is full, you can celebrate! Maybe go out for ice cream, yum!
- Get some sleep: The best way to support your child this school year is to make sure they are getting enough sleep. If your child has a lax bedtime, they may not be getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep. Sleep is the best fuel for their brain and the only way they will be able to complete an 8-hour day at school and then come home and work on school assignments. Creating a set bed time will help your child to develop a healthy sleeping schedule. Sleep = brainpower.
- Special Study Spot: In order for your child to successfully study at home, they must have a designated study spot free of clutter. Some families have space for a desk which is great. However, it will work fine for your child to study at the kitchen or dining room table as long as all distractions or clutter are moved out of the way. It is very easy to lose focus, so the less distractions present the better.
When helping your child develop healthy study habits, it’s beneficial to them that they develop the perfect space both mentally and physically. We live in a very distracting world and the academic demands on children are intense. Therefore, we must assist them in eliminating such distractions (i.e. technology off, clean study spot), promote healthy habits (exercise, physical play, sleep), and encourage our children to continually to progress and always give their best to their work.