Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to School: How to Support Your Student

The new school year is approaching quickly, or has already begun for some. Make this school year a great one by supporting your child/student. There is nothing more important than giving your child(ren) time. Here are some ways that you can support your student(s) this year.

*Make sure your child eats breakfast. If you have to, wake him/her up early enough to grab a healthy bite to eat before school. Stock the kitchen with healthy options. Here are some ideas:

fruit (apples, bananas, grapes, pears, peaches, etc.) 
cereal (no sugar cereal!)
applesauce and toast
peanut butter and toast
bran muffins
yogurt, granola and fruit

NO: waffles, french toast, pancakes, Pop Tarts, sugar cereal, chocolate milk. They may be convenient for you but will make your child tired and will hinder their ability to focus.

*Make sure they eat a healthy lunch. If you can't see what your child is buying at school, consider packing a lunch. Don't give your child money if you pack a lunch, but include something your child will like. Here are some healthy ideas:

fruit (apples, pears, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, orange, grapes, fruit cup, etc.)
raisins, Craisins, dried fruit, fruit leather
veggies (carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, etc.)
cheese (string cheese or mini Babybel cheese)
ham/turkey sandwich, tortilla wraps, ham or turkey roll-ups
pasta salad
chicken nuggets
meat/cheese/cherry tomato skewers
crackers, pretzels, popcorn, granola bar
treat (yes, give them a treat): oatmeal cookie, homemade cookie, pudding, fruit snack, etc.

*Include a love note or surprise (not money) in their lunch. 

*Sit down with your child and help him/her with homework.
  • If your child can do homework on his/her own, check his/her completed work. 
  • Test prep: Quiz your child, or have your child teach you. If your child can teach you without any hesitation and can answer your questions, that is a good sign that he/she knows the material. 
  • Create a homework space, free from TV and other distractions. Make sure there is plenty of light. Natural lighting is best if possible.

*Read with your child. Weather it be for homework or just for leisure, read with your child. It can be a great time to bond.

*Talk about "highs & lows" of the day at dinner. What was the best (high) part of your day? What was the worst (low) part of you day? You can usually assess what kind of day your child had with these two simple questions. 

*Have family dinner! Click HERE to see why family dinner is so important. 

*Help your student get enough sleep. The majority of our students run on very little sleep. Homework and extra curricular activities don't help but, there are other distractions that really cause the lack of sleep- cell phones/texting, Facebook, TV, video games, etc. As a parent, you can help your student by limiting access to these distractions.
  • When your child sits down to do homework, make him/her turn off his/her cell phone and give it to you. He/She can have it back once homework is finished. 
  • Make sure your child doesn't have a TV, video games, or computer in his/her room. If he/she wants to spend time on these devices, they should be in common areas of the house, such as family room or den. This will limit time spent on these activities around bedtime.
  • Set a curfew or "lights out" time, if possible. Sometimes homework and projects run quite late. Help your child finish it if necessary. Don't take away from your child's learning experience but do what you can to help.

*Be nice to your child. Let your child relax and have some fun. 

Let me put something in perspective. Our children go to school for about 7 hours a day. During those 7 hours their brains are being crammed with new information, each teacher thinking that his/her students understood every word and will retain everything that has been taught. After school, our children are headed to soccer practice and/or piano lessons, or whatever extra curricular activities they may be involved in. Those activities can take up another 2 or 3 hours in the day, maybe more if it is game day. Some of our youth work after school. Once our tired children are allowed to go home, it is homework time. Homework shouldn't last more than 2 hours but it normally goes longer because every teacher thinks that his/her class is the most important, so let's say it goes for 4 hours on a good night- no tests or projects to finish up. Let's look at this schedule without breaks.

Wake up: 6:30-7:00am
Breakfast, get ready, go to school: 7:00-7:45
School 8:00am-3:00pm
Sports, lessons, etc. 3:00-5:00pm 
Homework 5:00-9:00pm

Where's the time to have dinner? Time to be with family? Time to unwind and relax? Time to get good sleep? There's got to be some balance. 

*Please be patient and kind to your children when they are going through puberty. Their bodies are changing and growing so quickly. They need extra rest and and proper nutrition. Sometimes the body can become overworked during rapid growth and changes which in turn can cause stress and weaken the body's immune system. Puberty is already an awkward stage for children. Don't make it worse. Support them by helping them get the rest that they need and make sure they are eating well. 

*Limit the extra-curricular activities. Don't overwhelm your child (or yourself) with too many extra-curricular activities. I know so many parents that spend their whole afternoons running their children to so many lessons and practices. What happens? We stop making dinner and eat out because it's convenient. We don't sit down for dinner because we ate it in the car. We don't talk with our children because they're gone and dinnertime is over. Our most valuable time to connect with our children is gone. 

*Don't worry. Your child will get into college. I've had so many experiences with parents stressing about their child getting into college that it cracks me up. Their child "has to take such-and-such test prep class on Saturdays so they can pass the SAT and ACT tests." Their child "has to get straight A's to qualify for such-and-such college." Their child "has to take AP classes and AP tests." Their child "has to do so many sports and activities to show how well-rounded their child is on a college application." So many times I just wanted to say, "Chill out! Your kid will get into college." It's true. Your child WILL get into college one way or another. He/She might go to a junior college first. Sweet! Save some money and enjoy another year or two with your child. 

I hope you ALL enjoy your school year this year!

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