From Summer To School
Smart tips for parents (and kids!) to start the school year
By Kate Morgan

We asked some of SJ’s top educational professionals to share their advice on how to make the most of the last days of summer and the first weeks of school. Follow these tips, so your transition will be smooth sailing.


Just go to bed
Bedtime is never easy, but not sticking to a regular bedtime and wake-up time can disrupt a child’s sleep schedule, and that can create concentration issues.  

“Sleep is so important, especially for teenagers,” says Meredith Godley, the director of upper school at Moorestown Friends School. “As kids progress through high school, they sometimes give up sleep for studying and extra curriculars, but they’re healthier overall if they can get a good night’s sleep and wake up early without having to be dragged out of bed.”  

Godley suggests encouraging your teen to start going to bed and waking up incrementally earlier. After a few weeks, waking up early should be no sweat. They may even have time before school to wrap up assignments they left unfinished – in favor of a solid eight hours – the night before.  

Donna Snyder, director of early childhood and family engagement at Katz JCC, says the same is true for young students.  

“It’s lights out much later in the first few weeks of school,” she says. To help correct the problem, “start moving bedtime up by 10 minutes a day.”  


Come up with some new ideas 
Young children, especially those who are starting school for the first time, might feel especially uneasy about their new school. Snyder says parents can help by using playtime to set expectations and get kids excited about school.  

“What you want to do is help your child adjust by creating a story, like a mental movie,” Snyder says. “Tell them, ‘Hey, when you go to school, this is what your day is going to be like. You could even role-play, and imagine things like using the potty at preschool or going to their locker for older students. It’s a playful and creative way to get them used to it.”  

It can also be helpful to get creative when it comes to saying goodbye at  morning drop-off.  

“A ritual you create together is a quick, simple way to say goodbye,” Snyder says.  

“A lot of our moms here will tell their kids, ‘Ok, time to go! Push me out!’ and the kids push them out the door. It’s fun for the kids, and nobody is anxious or unhappy.”  


Start thinking before school even starts
Godley suggests incoming freshmen dedicate quality time to reading about their classes and reviewing the curriculum.  

“They should also read up on clubs and activities,” she says. “Heading into September knowing how they want to allocate their time can really help prevent overload.”  

But feeling at least a little overwhelmed is inevitable, and students will be better equipped to handle it if they know their support system in advance.  

“Know who your advisor is and how to get in touch, know who your counselor is,” Godley says. “Familiarize yourself with who to go to when you have a question.”  

And, especially in the first days of school, students should also feel comfortable questioning their own choices when it comes to their classes. “Figuring out you’re in the wrong class a couple weeks in can be problematic,” Godley says.  

“It helps to take a good look at the curriculum guide and make sure you’re in classes that match your strengths. If you know in the first few days that a class might not be right for you, start asking questions. Communicating with your teachers and advisors is the best way to make sure you’re getting the most out of every day at school.” 


Don’t let summer end 
Just because the start of school is for most families, the “official” end of summer doesn’t mean you have to stop having fun.  

“The summer is often when children get the most one-on-one time with their parents,” Snyder says. “That’s what a lot of children miss when the summer ends. But you can still take an afternoon off from work and take the kids to the pool or plan activities as a family for those first few weeks.”  

Godley says it’s also important for older students to have a gradual transition, too. “Kids jump right into school and forget they also need time to relax and just be with their family or have some alone time,” she says.  

Parents should remind kids to have fun and enjoy being a teenager.  

“It’s sometimes hard to explain that life isn’t all about getting into college,” Godley says. “Sometimes we forget to remind them it’s not all about classes and colleges; they need to hang out with their friends and grow as people.”

September 2018
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