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Back to School, Ways to help your Children

The arrival of September and a new school year looms. For some this is a much-anticipated event bursting with excitement and bolstered by confidence. For others, there is apprehension and even dread. Parents can help their children prepare for school in several ways - while channeling their excitement or quelling some nerves.

First, parents can assist kids by creating a manageable schedule of extracurricular activities that will allow sufficient time for homework and studying. The out-of-school sports leagues, dance and music classes all start taking registrations and it's tempting to sign up for everything the child is interested in - after all, won't being active and busy keep them out of trouble? There is definitely some truth to that, however, a healthy balance must be maintained. Most students can handle no more than two or three extra-curricular activities a week while juggling curricular demands. Remember to schedule time for homework and home study too! Primary students need 15 to 20 minutes a night; intermediate students need about an hour. High school students will likely have an hour or two a night.

Another way parents can help their children prepare for school is to talk with them about the importance of interacting appropriately with their teachers and how to act in class. Role playing certain common situations might help a student learn to deal with asking for extra help, asking permission to use the restroom or tactfully make a suggestion or contribute to a discussion. Although teachers do not always 'teach' these skills directly, they may nonetheless expect students to know them and may even draw conclusions about a student's demeanor and skills from the way they present themselves in such situations. Let the kids in on the secrets of successful in-class behaviors as well. These include sitting up and slightly forward, 'tracking' the teacher as s/he moves in the classroom, nodding to indicate listening and participating by either answering or asking questions.

Finally, parents can help students set up their study area in the home with the proper lighting and supplies. The computer is best placed in a shared space - off the kitchen for example so that whoever is preparing dinner can keep an eye on internet surfing, help with keywords for searches and generally monitor for safety. Basic supplies should include plenty of pens and pencils, lined and unlined paper, construction/ colored paper, markers, crayons, pencil crayons, a sharpener, corrector fluid or tape, glue, tape, ruler, geometry set, dictionary/thesaurus (or online), and perhaps a timer. The timer can be used to plan the homework session so that each subject gets some time and variety maintains interest and encourages more effective use of time-on-task.

When the first day comes let them help prepare a healthy lunch they will actually eat and send them off with a reassuring hug. Ask specific questions when they come home - go beyond - 'How was your first day' so that you get more than a one or two word response. Ask what they're excited about, what is worrying them, what supplies they might need, who their teachers are and what they remember about them. Back to school can be a positive time for the entire family!

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