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Your Complete Back to School Guide

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It's that time of year again---summer vacation is coming to a close and the kids are reluctantly shuffling back to their classrooms for another year of academics. In addition to your children's anxiety and back-to-school jitters, you are jotting down shopping lists and making seemingly endless preparations to ensure not only the first day, but the entire year goes smoothly and seamlessly for your child.

To help you combat the chaos that is back-to-school season, read on for these great tips from!

Back-to-School Shopping

  • Make a list. Before even attempting to brave the hectic and crowded stores for back-to-school shopping, construct a detailed list of everything you plan to purchase. Your child should receive a supply list from his teacher before classes begin to use as a starting point. Keep your child involved in compiling the list to get his preferences in colors, styles and favorite characters. Some common necessary items include:
    1. Backpack
    2. Notebooks/binders/folders
    3. Pencil case
    4. Pencils/pens/highlighters/markers/crayons
    5. Scissors
    6. Stapler
    7. Hole punch
    8. Glue
    9. Construction paper/poster board
    10. Calculator
    11. Ruler
    12. USB stick
    13. Combination lock
    14. Lunch box/thermos
When it comes to clothes shopping, the specifics will depend on your child's age, gender and personality, but there are always certain essentials to keep in mind.
    • Layered clothing. Fall is a transitional season, so a great way to save money on outfits for back to school is to buy pieces that can be easily layered. T-shirts, cardigans, and zippered sweatshirts are great staple items that will easily take your child from the warm September weather into the brisk coolness of autumn.
    • Jeans. These versatile must-haves can serve as casual wear with sneakers and a tee, as well as dressy with the appropriate top and shoes. Jeans are also durable, comfortable, and affordable if you steer clear of costly designers.
    • Shoes. Essential footwear for back to school include sneakers and a pair of dressier, yet still practical shoes. Choose darker colors to ensure longer-lasting appeal, and opt for Velcro for younger children that are still learning to tie their shoes.
    • Coats. If you live in a cooler climate, a coat is an important investment. A light jacket, heavy winter coat (such as a down parka or wool pea coat) and a raincoat will keep your child warm and comfortable in all kinds of weather.
    • Hats, gloves, scarves. Prepare for frigid winter temperatures by purchasing these items in advance because they sell out quickly.
Click here to download the itemized checklist for back to school shopping.
  • Wants vs. needs. When constructing the shopping list with your child, be sure to separate "wants" from "needs". Your child may have a laundry list of costly and superfluous items, such as light-up erasers or designer backpacks. If you are on a fixed budget and every "want" cannot be easily met, let your child know that any "extras" she desires can be purchased with allowance money.
  • Take inventory. If your child still has supplies left over from last year in usable condition, make a list of all items that you will not have to re-purchase. This may be met with some protest from your child, but reiterating that he can purchase additional items with allowance money will help teach the value of a dollar.

Preparing for the first day

  • Make necessary preparations for the school year. Ensure that all sports and extracurricular activities are signed up for by the appropriate dates, supplies and/or uniforms purchased, and practice/club meeting times are written clearly on your calendar. If you will be sending your child to any aftercare program, make sure arrangements are made in a timely fashion. Your district may send home a letter with this pertinent information, or you could contact the school to find out the aftercare schedule and pricing. There may be deadlines, so act promptly.
  • Plan your schedule. Make a list of all extracurricular activities, sports, and any other commitments your child will have this year. Write out a time-specific schedule so you are prepared and aware of what time you will have to leave the house in the morning, meet the bus, pick your child up, or drop her off at after-school obligations. Make sure there is enough allotted time left over for homework and family commitments as well. Setting aside a designated homework time can also help your child stay organized and productive.
  • Adjust to the new routine in advance. About a week before classes begin, it can be helpful to adjust your child's bedtime so he can ease into waking up earlier in the morning. This will make the first day of school run much more smoothly and prevent your child from being bleary-eyed and cranky.
  • Do a practice run. If your child will be attending a brand-new school, go through the motions before school starts to help make the new routine familiar. Walk to the bus stop, map out the route to school she will be walking, or take a drive to school and point out where she will be dropped off and what entrance to use. You could even schedule a tour of the school, where you can check out the classrooms, cafeteria or other places she will need to find on the first day. Knowing the layout of the school ahead of time will make that first day much less threatening.
  • Plan the first-day outfit and pack lunch. To make the morning less hectic, plan your child's outfit the night before and have all items laid out and ready. Letting him pick out a special first-day lunch and pack it the night before can help him get excited about the first day, as well as eliminate tasks that will only make the morning more chaotic. The more you prepare the previous night, the less stressful it will be to get your child off to school the first day.

Addressing child concerns when starting a new school

  • Kindergarten. Whether your children attended preschool or not, the transition into kindergarten can be frightening. Your child may be apprehensive about leaving behind the small, comfortable preschool atmosphere for larger classes, longer days, and less coddling. If your child did not even attend preschool, then his or her fears of leaving home and starting school will be magnified.
    • Missing mommy and daddy. A major concern for young children that are attending school for the very first time is letting go of their parents. Being brave, letting go of your hand and walking into that classroom all by herself is a huge step for your child. While some children with a tendency for shyness may shed a few tears and have a more difficult time adjusting to school, talking to your child about the experience ahead of time will help her adjust to the idea. Remember to assure your child that you will be right on time to pick her up, as this is a common fear as well.
    • Finding and using the bathroom. Many kindergarten classes have bathrooms located right in the classroom so little ones are not forced to wander off or mingle with older kids. Frequency of bathroom visits are often not regulated for such young children--you can assure your child to simply ask permission to use the potty before doing so.
    • Meeting the other children and the teacher. This fear especially affects children of the introverted variety. Alleviate her jitters by reminding her that the other children are feeling just as nervous as she is, and that kindergarten teachers are some of the warmest in the world. If you have an opportunity to meet the teacher ahead of time, this will certainly calm your child's fears. If the school holds a kindergarten orientation, you can also be proactive by introducing yourself to other parents in the class and setting up a play-date so your child has at least one familiar face the first day.
  • Middle school
    • Finding classes. The biggest change for your child upon entering middle school will be the transition from one classroom to several throughout the day. Switching classes can be intimidating because suddenly your child's academic world goes from one cozy room to several floors of crowded hallways to navigate through. The best way to combat this fear is a visit to the school prior to the first day to walk the halls and find each classroom on his schedule. Many middle schools have an orientation for newcomers to become familiar with the school's layout.
    • Using lockers. Middle school is often the first time your child will use a locker. Make sure to locate the locker during your tour of the new school so he has no apprehension about finding it the first day. Practice using the combination lock and opening the locker as well.
    • Fitting in. The demands of popularity and social status begin in middle school. Fears of being ostracized and invisible to his peers may plague your child as he prepares to begin this next chapter in his academic career. Additionally, the onset of puberty will be causing a whirlwind of hormonal changes, mood swings, and other angsty feelings in your child. While comforting words from his parents may do little to ease his jitters, a little patience and empathy can go a long way.
  • High school
    • Older kids. High school is so intimidating to teens because of the age difference between freshmen and seniors. Your child may fear bullying, teasing and ridicule by the older students, which can be devastating to her during this sensitive time of growth and change. To calm her fears, let her know that while bullying happens to many children, it is unacceptable behavior and that she should come to you immediately should it occur.
    • Harder classes. High school is the preparatory period for college, and your child may feel stressed as a result. More difficult classes, tougher teachers, term papers and exams can be pressuring to a nervous freshmen. You can help her to prepare for the curriculum by purchasing used textbooks in subjects like algebra, chemistry, and biology to become familiar with the topics of study over the summer.
    • Maintaining social status. Whatever social niche your child carved out for herself in middle school can become lost in the vast sea of high school. At this critical age, fitting in is imperative to her and the fear of not being accepted can make starting high school a nerve-wracking experience. While she will likely be moving on to high school with several friends (unless you have moved to a new district) they may not share many classes or the same lunch period. If she is worried about isolation or not making friends, remind her that she feared the same when starting middle school, and high school is no different. Making friends is never as difficult as it seems.

Dealing with bullying

A social epidemic, bullying affects 1 out of every 4 students in the country. Bullying can be physical, verbal, and even digital--instances of cyber-bullying are rapidly rising and can pervade your child's life even at home. While there is nothing you can do to completely shield your child from the possibility of being bullied (or doing the bullying), there are some tips for handling the situation the best that you can.

If your child is being bullied:
  • Be aware of signs that your child is being bullied--such as unexplained cuts, scratches, and bruises, depression, a drop in grades, or reluctance to go to school.
  • If your child comes to you about being bullied, listen with patience and empathy. Refrain from telling your child that bullying is just a part of life, or to "toughen up"--this kind of mentality will only have a negative impact on self-esteem. While assuring your child that he is not the only one to experience this, make clear that it is not acceptable behavior and needs to be dealt with properly.
  • Speak with the school's guidance counselor about their bullying policies. Many schools have a zero tolerance attitude towards bullying and will not take your concerns lightly. Your child may be resentful about talking to the faculty for fear of being labeled a tattletale--teachers and school officials can often monitor the alleged bully's behavior before directly addressing the problem so your child can maintain anonymity.
  • Tell your child how to deal with a bully nonviolently--ignoring the abuse, walking away, and portraying a confident attitude. Simply looking a bully in the eye and speaking in clear, authoritative tones can be effective.
  • Never encourage your child to fight--this will only increase violence behavior from the bully and will likely result in your child getting hurt or in trouble at school.
If your child is a bully:
  • Signs that your child is a bully include aggressive behavior, lack of empathy, arrogance, impulsiveness, or frequent fighting at home with siblings.
  • Talk to your child about the behavior. Inquire about the root cause of the bullying--children that bully are often feeling angry, depressed, insecure or lonely due to situations at school or at home.
  • Encourage empathy for others and give your child hypothetical situations to consider where she is the one being bullied.
  • Speak with your child's teachers and counselors about possible academic or social trouble at school, and ask for advice on how to combat the problem.
  • Consider if anyone in your family or close to you could be bullying your child--bullies are often a product of criticism or abuse from an adult or older sibling.
Back to School

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  Posted by Nicole La Capria on August 14, 2013

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