New outfit? Check.
School supplies? Check.
The right attitude? After a summer of sleeping in and doing things on her own time, you may need to help your reluctant teen prepare for going back to school.
Whether he’s an anxious freshman or a confident senior, heading back to school is a time of transition – from new teachers and classes to a new routine and social scene.
“To help your teen start a new year off on the right foot, have a conversation about what the school day will look like, starting with how your teen will get there, whether she’ll pack or buy lunch, and how she’ll get home,” said Geoffrey Putt, PsyD, a pediatric psychologist and director of outpatient therapy services at Akron Children’s Hospital. “A predictable routine provides the structure and comfort all kids need, including teens.”
School mornings are often hectic, so plan with your teen how much time he will need to catch the bus or another ride and adjust the routine accordingly.
Dr. Putt also recommends these 6 tips:
- Rise and shine. Your teen should start going to bed a little earlier for a few nights leading up to the first day of school. It’s just as important to get up earlier too, especially if your teen has been sleeping in all summer. Teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night, so establish a consistent bedtime to ensure she gets the sleep she needs.
- Don’t forget breakfast. It’s been said time and again that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Plan ahead by stocking up on quick and healthy breakfast items that contain a mix of complex carbohydrates and protein to keep your teen satisfied and able to focus until lunchtime. Pair whole-grain cereal or toast with milk, Greek yogurt, eggs, cheese or nut butters.
- Acknowledge back-to-school anxieties. You may assume your teen is nervous about a new class schedule, but he’s really worried about having enough time to get to his locker between classes or if any friends will have the same lunch period. Talk to your teen regarding his concerns and help him strategize how he’ll handle them. Show your teen you understand by sharing your own experiences, but don’t minimize his worries.
- Celebrate past successes. Your teen may have forgotten that 2 years ago she was worried about not knowing anyone in her homeroom, but that’s where she met her best friend. When listening to your teen’s worries, acknowledge her concerns, while reminding her that she’s successfully faced other challenges in the past.
- Avoid homework hassles. Establish an area for homework that’s free of clutter and away from the TV and other distractions. Make sure the space is equipped with the tools your teen will need, such as a computer, calculator and school supplies. If there’s a window of time before siblings get home from school, encourage your teen to use this quiet time for homework. If he needs a break, keep it short. This can be a time to get a drink or snack or clean out his backpack. Restrict the use of TV or video games during break time. Otherwise, it will be hard to get back to work.
- Get organized. Help your teen get and stay organized. If she’s likely to forget essential items for the day, remind her to pack her backpack the night before. Laying out her clothes or packing her lunch at night can also save time in the morning. Use a wall calendar to keep track of practices, games or other after-school activities. There are many organizational systems and techniques that can help, so figure out with your teen what works best for her.
Knowing how to stay organized and manage time are skills known as executive functions.
While it’s normal for all kids and teens to struggle with executive functions from time to time, if your teen always seems to be running late, regularly forgets to turn in assignments and has such poor organizational skills that it’s affecting grades and home life, she could be a candidate for Akron Children’s executive functioning skills building program.
“First, children are assessed to see where they are struggling,” said Dr. Putt. “Based on those results, we can match the child with the appropriate program module, which covers such areas as impulse control, starting tasks independently, staying focused, memory and adapting to changes in routine.”
For more information about the program, call 330-543-5081.