Contact Stephen Small, email@example.com, 608-263-5688
The first day of school can evoke a variety of emotions for parents and students alike. For students, it’s exciting to see old friends, start new classes and participate in school activities. Parents are hoping that their child will be successful and thrive in the new school year.
Getting the school year off to a good start can make life less stressful for both parents and teens and can help set the stage for success, says Stephen Small, human development and family relations specialist with UW-Extension and professor in the UW-Madison School of Human Ecology.
Small offers some suggestions for parents to help ease the transition back to school.
—Help your teen adjust to a new sleep schedule. During the summer many teens prefer to sleep in during the day and stay up late at night. When school starts, teens have to adjust their sleep schedules. This transition can make the start of school more difficult if it’s done suddenly, leading to morning battles and difficulties concentrating at school. Because it takes several weeks for the body to adjust to a new sleep schedule, encourage your teen to begin his or her new bedtime routine well before school starts. You might suggest that they set their alarm 15 minutes earlier every other day until school begins.
–Work with your teen to set up an environment that promotes good homework habits. Make sure there is a place to record assignments that your teen will have access to at home. Designate a homework area equipped with adequate light and supplies. Try to minimize distractions (for example, no TV, video games, loud music). Work on designing a regular schedule for homework, even if it varies by day of the week due to extracurricular activities.
—Discuss your expectations in terms of study hours, screen time, TV, cell phones, bedtime, and other issues. For those you consider negotiable, involve your teen in setting expectations together. The clearer the ground rules and the more involved your child is in setting them, the more likely he or she will abide by them.
—Try to establish a regular habit of conversations about your teen’s school day, including their homework, projects and teachers’ expectations. The first few weeks are the best time to create some habits that can build a foundation for the rest of the year. Specific questions usually work best. Rather than asking open-ended questions like, “How was school today?” try more specific ones like “Who did you sit with at lunch?” “What were the best and worst things that happened today?” Or “Who’s your favorite teacher this week and why?”
—Get teens thinking about the opportunities they will have for new friendships and how they might handle themselves as they meet new kids. Discuss any worries they might have about meeting new people and brainstorm ways to deal with these concerns. Encourage your teen to join club or group activities that appeal to him or her. It’s there they are most likely to meet others who share common interests–a promising foundation for new friendships.
–Ask your child about his or her goals for the new school year. For example, does your teen want to try out for a new sport? Get involved in a new extracurricular activity? Make new friends? Improve grades in math? Help your child think about what they can do (and how you can help) to achieve those goals.
To learn more about parenting pre-teens and teens, visit UW-Extension’s Parenthetical website where parents can share problems, ask questions and get the most current information about effective parenting and teens. The site is free and accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For more information on Parenthetical or to join its online parenting community, visit http://myparenthetical.com or contact your local county UW-Extension office. Contact information is available at http://counties.extension.wisc.edu