By Jodie Lynn
Some parents will wait to the last minute to get everything in order but it need not be that way. Here are a few tips to squash back-to-school stress... before it gets the best of you.
1. Get organized by visiting the school and meeting the teachers. Most of the preschools and elementary schools offer this as well as some middle schools. It offers the perfect opportunity to ask a few questions, like what to do about a school planner, rules on bullies and sick days, etc,. Some schools offer their own school planner and make it mandatory for kids to use it. Since every company on the face of the earth is making highly appealing, dazzlingly decorated planners for kids, please ask this important question. It will save discussions, tempers and blaming as soon as the child tries to convince you that her favorite character planner is a "must-have-or-I-will-die" one that all her friends are getting.
2. Grab an extra school supply list. Most of the time, they are at various stores. Parents can just pick them up as they enter. Hold off buying anything until after you meet the teacher. Show the list to her and ask if there is any addition or elimination, and change it accordingly.
3. Get the teacher's e-mail address. This is how most of the schools communicate in today's society. In addition, ask for a contact number. These come in handy in case you have a question about anything at all.
4. Take a trial run on getting up early at least five days before school. This helps with solidifying the new schedule and is proven to help prevent cranky kids.
5. Practice bus stop routes and bus stop etiquette. If your child is riding the bus, don't forget to walk with them to the bus stop and describe what type of behavior the school expects of your child at the bus stop and on the bus. If your child is not at least in the fourth grade, you may want to stay there, if possible, until the bus comes. After the age of 10, he is not going to want you there, so train well up to that age. Never leave your child at the bus stop alone. If there is a known bully, stick around but not right by your child or he will get teased and picked on.
6. If you take your child to school for an early arrival program for working parents, make sure you get to meet the director of this program and ask for typed rules. Go over them with a fine tooth comb so you will know exactly what to expect: arrival time, meals served, activities, and exception to rules (must go five days a week or lose spot in the program?).
7. If you are planning changes with anything, anything at all, have a family meeting at least one week before school. This is the perfect time to implement a new school plan for the new year. For example, new homework rules, activities (not too many, I hope), as well as when and what to eat before school and afterwards. This is especially true if your child goes to an after school program. Although many of the schools are cutting back on the handy chip, soda and candy machines, others have new ones.
8. Make sure you get a student handbook before school. If your school does not offer this until after school starts, call and ask about the dress codes. Go over student handbook. Each year, millions of schools hand out a student handbook and ask for students and parents to read it. Many have to sign a slip of paper indicating that they have done so. Then, when something horrible happens, like with one of my kids last year, you can either go to bat for your child because you have read it or sink because you did not. It is not a pretty picture when you have to take on the school board! Nevertheless, if you are in the right, and can make a case, you might be guided by what is actually in print as opposed to what an individual teacher or principal thought it said.
9. Make plans for a tutor right away. If you know your child will need a tutor, ask the teacher if she is available for tutoring. If she does not offer tutoring, ask for recommendations. Don't wait until your child is failing and everyone is taken. Private tutors are still the best in my book. They are not at all as expensive as most of the learning centers, especially if it is a retired teacher.
10. Get your carpool team together now! Most schools will help with this. They actually have a list of parents who want to carpool listed by zip code and a phone number. This is especially important for working parents or for any parent who wants to drive their children to school as opposed to riding the bus. In fact, some areas do not have school bus service.
11. Buy a family planner. Purchase a family planner to get the whole gang organized. This will save your sanity - I PROMISE! There are tons on the market. One that passed my severe "busy-life scrutiny" with flying colors is the new ThinkBin Family Calendar, created by two moms. It's totally incredible and actually has plenty of space to keep notes. Check it out on Amazon or see www.thinkbin.com -- it's amazing!
12. Get all immunizations caught up. Each year kids are stopped at the door or pulled out of class by the school nurse for not having immunizations up to date. In fact, did you know that the school could legally keep your child's report cared until his shots are up to date -- they can. Call the school and get a copy of the current list if your school did not mail you one.
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