Monday, August 22, 2011

Making the back to school transition better for everyone

Metro Newspaper Services
Today is the first day of school for many students returning to colleges and universities. Hard to believe how quickly summer passes. The transition for some is smooth while others experience a tidal wave of anxiety.
"We have four kids in three different schools entering eighth, seventh, fourth and third grade," said Eileen Wacker, a mom and author of a new children's book, "Pink Hamster and the Birthday Surprise," the fourth installment in the award-winning Fujimini Island Adventure series. "So we have great personal stress related to the kids returning to school."
However, at this stage in the game, Wacker has learned not to take the move lightly.
Wacker sees it as one of the biggest transitions her children will make at this age and compares it to what many adult go through in the work force: going to a new grade in the same building is like getting a new job in the same company; going to a new grade level in a different set of school buildings is like getting a new job with a new company.
It's a big deal for kids and they can experience anxiety, she said.
"When we talk to our kids they are not typically worried about the next batch of teachers but say they are reluctant to return to school because of all the homework and hard work. They are, in effect, worried about all of the expectations and measuring up," Wacker said. "Memories of late nights doing homework with a parent looking over their shoulder and getting up early can make even the most optimistic child shiver."

So, to ease the transition and make it more of a positive experience, Wacker is going to try the following tips on her family:
1. Meet the teacher via e-mail. Have the student write their own note to the teacher but keep it simple, no lobbying or opinions just a simple, hello, I am ready for the new year and looking forward to being in your class note. "This is especially helpful for a shy child as the teacher will normally respond with a quick e-mail back and the child will experience the first personal connection," Wacker said.

2. Get your child ready by reviewing the school's electronics policy. For example: Do you they allow laptop and cellphones? Are the cellphone ringers turned off but texting is allowed? Make sure all equipment has your child's name printed clearly on it.

3. Consider planning breakfasts for the entire week. At least for the first week give them exactly what they want (or a close facsimile). Be it macaroni and cheese or cold pizza.

4. If they're in elementary school you should have a class list or visit the school as many will post them on the window. Find a classmate that your child will be happy to see in the class and arrange a play date.

5. Make shopping for school supplies fun. "I have my kids go with the babysitter for school supply store and then get ice cream or lunch afterward," Wacker said. "They like to pick their own stuff and they especially like to pay."

6. Get them pumped up by looking at the brightest side or their best side. "Think through a few reasons why you are sure this is going to be a great year for him/her. For example, our oldest child struggles to get good test grades. So we emphasize she has amazing organization stills and always gets her homework done.

7. Make an agreement with each child as to how you plan to wake them up. Go over the routine so there are no surprises such as a cold shower or shades flying up.

8. Forgo the first day pomp and circumstances as it only adds to the stress. "We buy items based on when they are on sale not necessarily for back to school," Wacker said. "Label their treasured clothes (expensive hoodies) so they're less likely to end up in the lost and found and skip the first day ceremony." Instead of a pose, take a candid shot.

9. Celebrate when you reach the end of the first week. "We go out to dinner and take small video clips of a funny interview with each child," Wacker said. "We ask them what their favorite things were the first week and to do an imitation of their teacher."

10. Communicate and remind with sticky notes. Write things like "you are brave" or "have the best day ever." Ask them open questions every day and try not to correct when they answer. Who do you sit next to in class now? What was lunch like? How do you like your teacher?

These are things that you can do to make the transition from summer to school easier. However, it's all for nothing if parents become overwhelmed with the transition. Plan ahead. Get plenty of sleep and chill. "You would not want anyone to criticize what you are wearing on the first day of your new job. You would not want anyone to yell at you or demand you to eat what they cooked. You would not want to be late. You would not want to enter the new office crying," said Wacker. "The back to school drama is coming, but you can send an excited child to school with optimism for a new year."

Check out Wacker's new book and award-winning series at Once Kids

Back to school immunizations
The Macomb County Health Department will be offering expanded hours and additional weekend clinics to accommodate the rush of back-to-school immunizations for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Today's session runs to 3 p.m.
The Macomb County Health Department is at 43565 Elizabeth Road, Mount Clemens.
For more dates/information, visit Macomb County Health Department

The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder ~ Ralph W. Sockman

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