School’s starting, EFMP offers tips to prepare
Wednesday, 09 August 2017
By Cinda Holloway
Special to GUIDON

As summer begins to wind down, Families are gearing up for school to start.  

Next week, most local school districts will be in session.  It’s a time of many changes – some students going to school for the first time and for others, just another school year. For parents and children, especially children with transition or change concerns, it is even more stressful.  

There are several local events and activities to support Families. Back to School fairs are a way to obtain additional information. For Pulaski County, the fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the ARK in Waynesville.

In addition, here are a few suggestions and tips that might make Family life a little easier: 

Sleep
Children need 10 to 12 hours of sleep to be ready and able to do well at school. Set a bedtime and a wake up time – try starting this now  and do it consistently to work out the “kinks.”

Schedule
Everyone needs a schedule. Write it down — engage your child in making the schedule.  Sometimes simple things like having the child eat breakfast before making their bed or getting dressed may make more sense to them. Use a picture calendar of events – applying Velcro to pictures so if the schedule must change, the picture can be rearranged and still flow. Review the calendar with them the night before, “Remember tomorrow morning we...”.

Supplies
Go through the supply list. Try to determine what new things they need. Often it is chaotic at the store with everyone trying to get the best, coolest and newest supplies. Use online shopping to identify what is wanted or to reduce the stress of crowded aisles. Most stores already have the lists for customers.  Use “baggies” or pouches to help keep like items more organized. Don’t forget clothing – a new or prized outfit often makes the first day easier.  Remember to check with the school to see what is on the “don’t wear” list.

Book bags
Use book bag etiquette. Let the child assist with packing the bag. As the adult, we know what is required but the child may want a “comfort” item in the bag also. Ensure the bag is acceptable by the school. Some schools require certain sizes or even clear book bags. Ensure  that it sits properly on the child’s shoulders.

Ensure the bag is not too “heavy” – more things will be added as the school day progresses.


Packed lunch
Prepare a menu ahead of time and review it for likes, dislikes or allergies. Review the “payment plan” for school lunches — either sign up or ticket. Assist the child to pack their lunch the night before and then quickly review it in the morning. Review rules for sharing their lunch or not eating.

School schedules, rules
Don’t forget to review these with your child especially if this is the first time they attend school. Review the school schedule for classes, recess, lunch and bus.

Help your child  know the school rules — sit down and stay in your seat, raise your hand to speak, walking instead of running, lunchroom rules, etc. Clarify parent rules for behavior to include respect for others and what you expect your child to do when you are not around.

Safe zone or people
Ask for a tour of the school and classroom locations before all the other students are crowding the hallway.  This can be done more than once if needed for comfort. Some children need to have a “safe” place to go when school gets too overwhelming. Make sure this is planned ahead of time, the child has walked the route, and they know who they can talk to. Have an emergency person that the child knows and can go to in case of an emergency or if pick up plans are changed at the last minute.

Some children need “fidgets” to reduce stress, anxiety and to concentrate — make sure they know the “fidget rules” and that their fidget is approved by the school. 

Walking or riding the bus
 This event can initially be scary and uncomfortable. Walk the route several times with your child until they are comfortable and let them know what route to take if you are not walking every day with them.  

Go over bus riding strategy like where to get on, what bus number to get on, bus behavior, and where to get off after school.

Summer break is a time when those comforting schedules are relaxed and activities were already planned. Parents may teasingly say “we can’t wait for school to start,” yet it is often difficult to send children out on their own. It becomes easier when we know they are prepared and when we prepare ourselves for them growing up and becoming self-inspired.  Take pleasure in knowing that you have  given them the tools and, if necessary, that you are there to coach them through tough times.  

For more information, please contact the Army Community Service, Exceptional Family Member Program at 573.596.0131, ext. 60212.

(Editor’s note: Holloway is the EFMP manager at ACS.)