Starting the school year off right: Back-to-school tips for the whole family

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 30, 2012

(BPT) – – Back-to-school season can be a stressful time for families. Homework requirements, packed schedules, extracurricular activities and even shorter hours of daylight are only a few things that make this time of year a transitional time for families. In fact, research shows that 85 percent of teens report their stress levels are affecting their school performance.

“There are simple habits that parents can adopt to help reduce stress, both for themselves and for their children during the school year,” says education and parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba, who is the bestselling author of 22 parenting books and a frequent TODAY show contributor. “Follow these easy tips to ensure the school year is a success for all members of the family.”

* Promote the positive: Children take cues from their parents on how to handle and react to stress. Help promote positive feelings within the family by discussing what’s happening each day while around the dinner table, and by posting handwritten notes of encouragement around the house or in your children’s lunchboxes. Research also shows that praising your child’s hard work and efforts rather than the desired outcome enhances their achievement. For example, aim to give more words of encouragement commending your children on time spent studying for a big test rather than the actual score they receive on that test.

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* Develop a shared calendar: The school year means sporting events, music lessons, after-school activities and PTA meetings all at once. “One central calendar is crucial to keeping everyone on track and remembering appointments,” says Dr. Borba. Try creating a color-coded family command center to keep everyone organized. Include a family calendar for tracking schedules, family note boards for sharing messages and a storage area for saving important documents that will be needed at a later date. Post-it Full Adhesive Notes in different colors are a great way to represent each family member. These notes have a full adhesive backing that holds notes on the calendar longer, but can be removed cleanly and reposted if needed. Keeping track of all the activities will help all family members feel more at ease, reducing stress.

* Get enough sleep: Waking up early in the morning for school, combined with maintaining late hours for sporting practices, after-school activities or homework quickly translates into exhaustion. “Sleep is fundamental to your entire well-being,” says Dr. Borba. Keeping children on consistent sleep schedule on weekends and school vacations also promotes healthy long-term sleep habits.

* Become familiar with specific stress-reduction techniques: Every person handles stress in different ways, especially when it comes to kids and teenagers. Dr. Borba recommends helping your children pinpoint habits and activities that help them reduce stress, and set aside time to do these activities with them. Your teenage daughter may respond positively to yoga classes as a form of stress relief, while the long, deep breaths required to blow bubbles can be calming for many young children.

By helping your family properly prepare and manage full schedules and other stress factors throughout this school year, you’ll notice all members of your family showing success in their endeavors and enjoying the activities they’re involved in. Put these tips from Dr. Borba to use for an organized and stress-free school year.