Back-to-school tips help with issues from jitters to lunches

August 7, 2012 

CHRIS WARE | STAFF

  • How to deal with bullies

    1. Encourage your child to report bullying incidents to you or another familiar adult. Help him be specific about what is happening.

    2. Coach your child in possible alternatives, including avoiding situations in which bullying might occur or finding new friends.

    3. Involve your child in social activities outside school.

    4. Don't ignore your child's report or advise your child to fight back physically.

    5. Use the school as an ally by reporting your child's concerns and specific information about bullying to appropriate school officials.

  • Preparing to study

    1. Provide a quiet, well-lighted place. Let your child personalize the area with artwork.

    2. Make sure pencils, pens, paper and other supplies are nearby.

    3. Schedule a regular time for homework. This can vary from child to child; some kids work best in the afternoon after an hour of free time, while others work better after dinner.

    4. Turn off the television and limit phone calls during study time.

    5. If your child has several assignments or tests, put up a calendar so he can keep track of when his work is due.

  • Connecting with your child

    1. Ask specific questions about the day, such as: How did things go on the playground? What sort of problems did you work on in math?

    2. Give kids time to unwind. Just like adults, they might need some time to decompress after a long day.

    3. Share some of your day — what went well, problems you encountered and how you handled them.

    4. Learn classmates' names and ask about specific kids.

    5. If you hear something that doesn't seem to make sense or concerns or alarms you, ask the teacher.

August is here, and kids are heading back to school soon. Transitioning from summertime to the beginning of a new school year can be a challenge for students and parents. Here are some tips for making this school year a good one for everyone involved.

ON THE HOME FRONT

First day jitters

1. Talk about any concerns your child has about going back to school. Also mention how fun it will be to see old friends and meet new ones, and reminisce about some of the good times at school in previous years.

2. If your child is going to a new school, set up a tour and meet the teacher and principal.

3. Arrange to have a classmate in the neighborhood walk to school or ride the bus with your child.

4. Help your child pack his backpack and lay out his clothes the night before the first day. This will help avoid a last- minute rush in the morning.

5. Make sure to set aside some time in the evening to talk about your child's first day of school.

Helping with homework

1. Don't do your child's assignments — it won't help him learn the information.

2. At the beginning of the school year, ask the teacher about the assignments that will be given and how long kids are expected to take to complete them. Also ask the teacher how she wants you to be involved with your child's homework.

3. Observe how your child learns best. Does she absorb material better by drawing pictures or hearing instructions? Does he work better with someone or alone? When you figure out the best method for your child, it will be easier to help him.

4. Go over the assignments with your child to help her break down projects into small steps.

5. Praise your child for his accomplishments when he's done a good job.

THE BACKPACK

Lighten the load

1. Frequently empty out your child's backpack. Don't let him or her become a pack rat. Students should carry only what they need for the day.

2. Beware of messenger bags: Ideally, find a knapsack that has straps on both sides and that is padded, ensuring an even distribution of weight.

3. Don't let your child carry a backpack on one shoulder.

4. Opt for a lightweight material, such as heavy-duty nylon, rather than leather.

5. The backpack's lowest point should be 2 inches above the wearer's waist.

6. The heaviest books should go in the part of the pack that fits closest to your child's back. Light items should go near the outside to reduce back strain.

HEALTH AND NUTRITION

Lunches worth tooting about

1. Jazz up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with raisins or granola.

2. Replace cookies and cake with healthful options like pretzel sticks.

3. Use bagels, pita pockets or multigrain bread instead of white bread.

4. Chicken or tuna salad is packed with protein. Easy on the mayo.

5. Celery with peanut butter or carrots with light ranch dressing can help kids get their veggies.

Super snacks

1. Top off low-sugar cereal with raisins and bananas.

2. Make frozen fruit kebabs with pineapple, grapes, bananas and berries.

3. Add almonds or low-fat cheddar cheese cubes to a snack of apple slices.

4. Have pudding made with fat-free or low-fat milk.

5. Make cracker stackers: wheat crackers and cheese spread.

Stay in shape

1. Schedule a regular time for your kids to exercise, which might include playing outside with friends, walking the dog or taking a family bike ride.

2. Encourage your child to sign up for sports at school or through community groups.

3. Set a good example by following your own exercise routine.

4. Make exercise fun by playing a variety of games. Don't focus on losing weight or changing your child's appearance.

5. When your child is studying, have her take breaks to stretch and walk around.

A good night's sleep

1. Develop a sleep routine for your child with a set bedtime.

2. Limit the amount of caffeine in your child's food. Caffeine can be found in soda and chocolate.

3. Don't allow a TV in your child's room — studies show that kids who have them sleep less.

4. Exercise will help your child sleep better, but don't let your child exercise right before bedtime.

5. Try to have your child do a calming activity before bed, such as taking a bath or reading a book.

SCHOOL ISSUES

Testing scores

1. Your child's school is more than just a test score.

2. Performance on a test can let you know whether your child needs additional help.

3. State and national test scores let you know whether your school is meeting learning goals.

4. The scores your child brings home from school are different than the school's scores.

5. Children need additional rest and a good breakfast on testing days.

Getting involved

1. Let the school know the best way to get in touch with you — email, phone or backpack notes.

2. Read communications your child brings home.

3. Attend school programs, events and PTA meetings with your child.

4. At least twice a year, schedule a conference with your child's teacher.

5. Have lunch at school with your child and his or her friends.

People you should know at school

1. Your child's teacher.

2. The principal.

3. The guidance counselor.

4. The PTA president.

5. A member of the site-based council.

Sources: The Truth About Back Pain by Todd Sinett, Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, Familyeducation.com, American Academy of Pediatrics, Kidshealth.org, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National PTA, Fayette County Public Schools, Coolrunning.com, Herald-Leader archives and Jody Mitori of McClatchy-Tribune contributed to this report.Chris Ware | cware@herald-leader.com

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