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Back to School

- Sangeeta

In the next couple of weeks millions of children will be heading off to school after their long summer vacations. Whether it's a child's new term at kindergarten or high school, the anticipation of going back to school after holidays brings with it a flurry of emotions that can be overwhelming - not just for the child, but for the parents as well. It means a complete change of routines for the entire family, from late nights and the holiday spirit to a more fixed schedule.

Reena is already jittery. With about a fortnight to go, she is wondering how she is going to bring her son back to the school time schedule. Schooldays had always meant a battle, and now he had got used to late nights, junk food and frequent outings. She herself was wondering how to cope up with the morning rush of school time and other demands.

Yes, once the summer holidays are over, children and parents look to starting school with trepidation.  In the weeks leading up to your child's first day of the new term, there are various factors to be looked into, and changes incorporated progressively.

Adjust bedtimes

Coax your child back from the lingering nights of summer to a regular bedtime. Begin by slowly adjusting the hour when your child goes to sleep and the time when he wakes up in the morning. Each night, get your son ready for bed a few minutes earlier so that he will gradually ease into the school bedtime, which could be sometime between 8:00 to 9:30, depending on the child's age and specific needs. If you haven't already done so, create a bedtime routine, including brushing teeth, selecting clothes for the next day and getting the school bag ready.

Review wake-up times 

As you ease your child into an earlier bedtime, adjust his waking time accordingly. Each morning wake him up a little earlier, maybe with inducements keeping up with the ongoing holiday spirit. 

Structure his activities 

The entire day has also to be structured to further transitioning your son toward a customised school routine. Encourage your child to play outdoors and indulge in rigorous activities like swimming and football, or take him to the park, so that he tires out easily and sleeps early with minimum effort. 

A couple of days before his school, gradually ease out and cut short the duration of his activities. Encourage him to find other amusements such as gardening, biking, arts and crafts, writing or reading. You may need to assist him by giving him choices or inviting playmates over to participate in some of the games. If you have a pre-schooler or kindergartner child, playing with alphabets and word making is an ideal way to refresh the child's learning abilities.

Take advantage of this time together to talk about the approaching school term, and encourage him to ask questions or express concerns. Remind your child that although he'll be at school on weekdays, you still have the evenings and weekends to do things together. 

Restrict TV viewing

An integral part of getting ready for going back to school is cutting down on television viewing habits formed during the summer holidays. You may help him select his favourite programs, and limit his viewing to these shows only. Also to induce him to sleep earlier, television viewing should be refrained in the hour before bedtime.

Reintroduce balanced breakfasts and meals

In keeping with the idea of getting him back to a school routine, reintroduce wholesome breakfasts and meals, preferably keeping in mind what he is likely to have during schooldays. So if he is used to having a glass of milk every morning before school which had been substituted for cool or aerated drinks recently, this is the time to get back to schedule. Cut down on the junk food intake and in-betweens as well.

School supplies

Check up together on his school supplies, water bottle straps, nametags and so on. Take your child shopping for his school requirements, allowing him to choose some items such as a lunchbox, crayons or backpack and draw him into the realization that school is just around the corner. He will also look forward to starting school with his new acquirements.

Check his holiday tasks

Check up with school diary and copies, whether holiday tasks, if any, have been complied with properly. This is also the time when you could reintroduce the homework time, by undertaking these joint reviews at
the predetermined 'homework time', say in the evenings. 

Review work to be done in the following term

Review together with the child the studies that shall be undertaken the following term. Appraise his academic skills and refresh his learning by setting him some parameters for study and self review. For small children, this could be done in the course of play.

Interact with other school goers

Encourage your child to interact with his classmates, whether in person or over the phone, and maybe discuss his holiday tasks or the forthcoming school term. Herein, you could contribute by calling over his school friends for play and snacks, and maybe participating in their discussions.

Chat with other parents

Parents too sometimes need reassurance, especially those with other responsibilities or work, or with children who give a trying time during school days. Chat with other parents who have children at the school to share experiences as well as anxieties. 

One needs to set certain guidelines and ease gradually into the transition of a predetermined fixed schedule. From adjusting the bedtime hour to reviewing academic skills, you can make some simple changes that will help your child transition from spontaneous summer fun to school readiness, with minimum fuss.

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