Ease back to school stress with these six tips

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In school, kids have to participate and pay attention. Playing games at home to practice these skills. | The Barbereux School

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Going back to school doesn’t have to be
stressful. Three Chicagoland educators offer their advice on how to recalibrate your kid for the classroom.

1. Keep playing.

Cathy Kurtz, co-director at The Barbereux School in Evanston that welcomes 2- to 6-year-olds, said games and puzzles puts a child’s thinking cap back on. She recommended keeping educational toys accessible to kids at home.

“Rotate them, like we do in the classroom, and pick up what they’re good at,” she said.

Outdoor playtime can be paired with a brain workout for kids, too. Take a walk, and talk about trees and birds. Having conversations can build vocabulary and background knowledge that kids can bring to their peers and the classroom, said Sally Bullard, head of Lower School at Lake Forest Country Day School, which oversees preschoolers to fourth-graders.

2. Limit screen time.

The educators all recommended keeping face time in front of any screen — television, computer, tablet or cell phone — short. Limit your child to no more than 30 minutes to an hour a day. Homework time may be the exception.

3. Gives kids (some) control.

At Chiaravalle Montessori in Evanston, established work plans help preschoolers through eighth-grade students tackle a group of tasks. Use the same tactic at home, said Beth Caldwell, Chiaravalle’s director of communications. Create a list or picture diagram of tasks, and let the child determine the order and duration, she said.

“They’re helping build the plan,” she said. “It’s easier to enforce because they agreed to it.”

Bullard said parents should have a conversation with their child before he or she begins a new grade. She recommended answering the following questions: What activities do they really love and want to continue after school? How much do they think they can handle based on how much homework they will bring home?

Similar to Caldwell, Bullard said let kids help lay out a schedule to give them ownership of and a commitment to what needs to be done.

“You learn about yourself by making choices,” Bullard said.

4. Establish a routine.

Even outside of the classroom setting, “routine goes a long way toward success,” Caldwell said.

She suggested trying to start routines such as picking out clothes the night before.

“Remove some of the things that cause morning arguments, so you don’t have that morning fight before you go,” she said.

Even on nights that Kurtz’s 7-year-old son doesn’t have homework, she might give him a 10-minute activity to keep the homework routine going, she said.

“For some kids, especially at the beginning of the year, it’s important,” said Kurtz.

5. Build a comfortable study place.

“Most children, if not all, love setting up a workspace that is theirs,” Bullard said.

Take a child to home or office supply store where he or she can buy items to set up a fun and efficient homework space, she said. Let them pick out their own special pencils, a stapler or a chair. Work together to set it up before school starts.

“It’s another way to engage them in the fun of going back to school,” she said.

6. Easy does it.

For families that haven’t yet weaned their kids off summer bedtimes, Bullard said that allowing about a week to acclimate to school nights is just fine.

Don’t kiss summer goodbye abruptly.

“It’s important at the end of summer to take stock of memories,” Bullard said.

She suggested recording short videos of what children do over the summer, to revisit in a highlight reel before school starts.

“Have them tell a story with strong verbs and adjectives to get them back in the swing of writing,” she said.