Back to School Tips for Parents

| September 1, 2016


Stay on top of all the details to keep the school year flowing smoothly

By Melanie Saxton

Calendars, homework, lunches and more… cheers to making the new school year a more organized one! Whether your child is transitioning to kindergarten or high school, it takes an arsenal of tips to launch a successful new school year. The following ideas can help your child seamlessly and confidently enter the classroom.

Establishing Goals

First and foremost, consider talking with your children about the year ahead. What do they want to achieve scholastically and socially? Writing a list of goals can prioritize their activities. Perhaps one goal can be to uncover hidden talents and tap into musical or athletic abilities. He or she may want to join school clubs or experiment with extracurriculars to widen a circle of friends. Some students may endeavor to banish “Cs” from their report cards in favor of “As” and “Bs.”

Goals can also hit closer to home. Your child might commit to getting enough sleep, waking up on time or managing their laundry. They may step-up their pet care responsibilities or look for ways to balance chores and homework. Putting these ideas in writing can make aspirations seem more tangible — and achievable. Striving toward specific goals can motivate students to envision long-term plans for next year and beyond as well.

Getting Enough Sleep?

Acclimating to weekday bedtimes and morning wake-ups can be a challenge for students of all ages. According to the National Sleep Foundation, insufficient sleep is associated with lower academic achievement and higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness. Children up to age 10 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep. Optimally, older students need 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep.

Establishing a schedule and sticking to it is imperative. You can help by making sure your child has a wake-up alarm that works well for them. You can also set a timer 30 minutes before bedtime so that kids have time to wrap-up last minute tasks and get to bed on time. If your child is tempted by electronics, it may be a good idea to remove or disable distractions such as televisions, computers and cell phones. Consider using “white sound” machines such as fans that lull them into slumber. Night lights may soothe the fears of children who are fretful in the dark.

Teens are notorious for putting off sleep until the last minute, and some burn the midnight oil studying or winding down after a hectic day. Consider cautioning them to avoid caffeine in the afternoons and evenings, and encourage them to view sleep from an “adult” perspective. For example, they will some day navigate college and the work force. Learning to get a good night’s sleep now will help them meet the responsibilities of real life. Good sleep habits can become a sustainable routine throughout their future.

Homework Help

Since school work seldom ends at the final bell, plan ahead with effective strategies and schedule ample time for after school assignments. For younger students, focusing on homework after a busy day at school can be a frustrating experience. To avoid eye, neck and brain fatigue, your child may need to snack, play, stretch and reenergize before — or even during — homework. Working parents can discuss these factors with childcare centers or babysitters to ensure their children are able to handle homework assignments.

This is a great opportunity to introduce time management skills so kids can work “smarter” rather than “longer.” Create a homework and technology space with school supply storage within easy reach. Develop a child-friendly filing system so that assignments for each class can be organized, then purge unnecessary paperwork once a month to reduce clutter and chaos. Replace negative phrasing with positive phrasing, for example, “You can play outside after your homework is finished,” rather than “You’re not leaving the table until your homework is done.” Perhaps you can model good homework habits by working on your own projects while your kiddos focus on theirs. This ensures you are available to help when needed, and a side benefit is that everyone can enjoy family time afterward.

For older students with rigorous course loads, homework may seem overwhelming. Help your teens block out time before major tests, mid-terms and finals so they can hyper-focus on their studies. Suggest apps like MyHomeWork or iHomework or to help your tech-savvy student organize assignments on Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPad or Macbook. If your student is having trouble mastering materials (and the topic is over your head), look into resources such as after school tutoring and encourage study groups.


If your child prefers a cafeteria lunch (or breakfast), be sure and replenish school meal accounts or tuck away money your child’s pocket or backpack. Most schools send cafeteria menu schedules home or post this information online.

For homemade lunches, it saves time to pack food the night before. Encourage your children to help, as this is a great time to discuss nutrition and healthy eating habits. If simple fare such as ham sandwiches, chips and an apple become boring, consider alternatives like avocado and chicken salad stuffed pita pockets. Visit websites such as and for great lunchbox ideas. By the way, hiding a sweet, funny or encouraging note inside a lunchbox can bolster your child’s mood and bring a smile to the whole lunch table.

Parental Planning

The flurry of back-to-school activities can be demanding on parents. Organ­ization is the key, but doesn’t have to be overly complicated.

Clothing: Encourage kids to lay out their school clothes the night before. Better yet, encourage them to pick five outfits and store them in a drawer for pain-free efficiency in the morning. Weed through outgrown clothes together every couple of months and donate them to charity.

Bags: Have your kids fill gym bags and backpacks every evening. Double check for school supplies, signed forms, fresh socks and other necessities to ensure each morning runs smoothly.

Transportation: Consider a back-up transportation plan in case you have car trouble or your child misses the bus. Neighbors, car pool partners or family members may be able to help.

Calendar: Permanently station a family calendar to keep everyone synchronized and on task. Write down and track activities, and encourage your children to do the same. Some families arrange weekly meetings to discuss commitments for the week ahead, including sports, church functions, tutoring, parent-teacher conferences and test dates.

Important forms: Establish a dedicated “landing spot” for permission slips and forms to sign. Set up a medical file for each child to keep up with vaccination records and the shots required for each grade level. Store milestone standardized test results for handy reference.

Rewards: Earned allowances for grades and chores can be motivational, but not every reward has to be monetary. School art can be framed and hung on walls with pride. Tests with high scores can be displayed on refrigerators. Impressive papers can be scanned and emailed to grandparents, aunts and uncles. When children know their efforts are appreciated and applauded, it encourages them to keep striving for excellence.

Dear Teacher

Last but not least, remember to email teachers and introduce yourself at the beginning of a new school year. This is an opportunity to share your child’s background, dreams, aspirations and challenges, and also cues the teacher that you are an involved parent who wishes to partner in your child’s education. Take advantage of Parent Nights on campus and parent-teacher conferences. If you are able to volunteer, most schools have many opportunities to serve. Be sure and check the school website for news, and some teachers have web pages you can visit.

If your child is having difficulty with school assignments, homework or peers, keep the lines of communication open. Consult with teachers (and administrators when necessary) to find solutions. Often teachers have wonderful insights and techniques to propel students toward success and mediate conflicts. The school counselor and your child’s healthcare provider can also help.

In short, it’s important for students to know what to expect and to understand their responsibilities — and opportunities — on campus and at home. Established routines can certainly give them a leg up on the new school year. Best wishes to every student in our readership area, and may their back-to-school journey flow smoothly!

Category: Katy Texas Schools, Sports, Students, Katy Kid

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