AREA -- School bells around the area are about to ring and Kris Jenkins, a human environmental sciences specialist with Missouri University Extension has some tips on making the transition from summer vacation to a school routine a little easier.
She said, as adults, we often forget that a new teacher, new classmates and a more rigid schedule are sometimes big challenges for children.
"Factor in the reality that the children you send off this fall are not the same ones who went to school this past year," Jenkins said. Their interests have changed, they have undergone physical changes, some of their friends have moved and perhaps the teacher they wanted did not materialize. "If they are making one of the big transitions from kindergarten to elementary school, elementary school to middle school or junior high to high school, their anxiety level can be high," she said.
Some children adjust well, hardly missing a beat in the new school life. "Others find the transition more difficult. Hectic schedules and hurried mornings can add to family stress. Patience, understanding and encouragement are essential as the school year begins. Think about how to streamline the morning routine. Getting organized in advance is the best preventive," Jenkins said.
She suggested spending time at the end of each day to prepare for the next morning. For example, select clothing for the next day, especially for younger children. "When doing the laundry, fold and stack clothing into compatible outfits, then let children choose the night before what they want to wear to school the next day," she said.
She suggested locating and stacking school books, along with backpacks, school lunch money and band instruments in a central location the evening before so they will be handy the next morning.
"Parents also need to train their children to be responsible for getting up in the morning. Teach children how to set a radio alarm clock. Younger children may need encouragement to get up, but nagging, begging and pleading are ineffective motivators and can create a cloud of gloom over the household," Jenkins said.
She said there are also some winning strategies for the morning school routine. She suggested a few tactics to ease the tension as families gear up for the beginning of the school year.
* Be an early bird. Grab a few minutes of peace for yourself or use them to prepare for the morning routine.
* Simplify instructions to one word. For example, try saying "teeth" instead of, "I told you to brush your teeth."
* Use sense of sight, sound and touch. Establish eye contact and put an arm around your child to get his attention, so you only have to say things once.
* Reduce distractions. Turn off the TV, have your child dress in his own room and try to limit interactions between siblings in the morning.
* Switch roles with the other parent. Trade responsibilities for getting the kids out the door.
* Avoid asking questions that could get a response of "no." Don't ask your child if he is getting ready for breakfast. Tell him firmly but pleasantly that it is time to get up or that breakfast is ready.
* Keep your explanations short and sweet. Don't tell kids why you have to be on time. Just tell them when to be in the car.
* Use the when-then approach. Say, when you are dressed, then you will have time to play on the computer.
* Offer only two choices to young children. For example, ask them if they want toast or cereal.
* Assist younger children with getting dressed occasionally, even though they can do it themselves. Try this approach: "I'll put on your left shoe if you will put on your right shoe."
* Stay away for a few minutes when you sense a power struggle brewing. Learn to walk away, do something else and then return with a positive attitude or a distraction for the child.
* Give verbal updates about the time and what still needs to be done. One father found using a timer helps: "When the timer rings, the TV has to be turned off and you must put on your jacket."
Jenkins said these are just a few suggestions that might help young parents who are sending a child off to school for the first time or even for more experienced parents with several children to get ready to go to school.