Last week's turn of the calendar page brought thoughts of August to everyone's mind.
For those in Southern Illinois, the start of the year's eighth month means many things: The final weeks before the Du Quoin State Fair, light at the end of the tunnel in hopes of autumn weather breaking summer heat and time to prepare to send young children back to school and welcome a mass influx of new and returning Salukis to campus.
But with the back-to-school mindset comes an added sense of pressure to make the most the most of summer vacation's final weeks. Parents need to be aware, however, the best way to prepare their youngsters to head back to the classroom is by starting the mental preparation early.
Here are some tips for making the transition a smooth one:
Recreate a routine: Sure, summer traditions mandate a delayed bedtime and free reign over ice cream and popsicles, but once school starts, it's back to early lights-out and cafeteria lunches. The shock of change can, and likely will, result in what can only be described as ICS, or irritable child syndrome.
By using these final weeks to summer to begin getting the child re-accustomed to the school year rules, parents will avoid the hassle the Sunday night before school starts. Parents and their children alike will also have to readjust to their time apart and plan on setting aside time in the day for chores and homework after school.
Shop early: Walking the aisles of many Southern Illinois retailers will reveal an absurd amount of folders, pens, pencils, crayons, binders, calculators, highlighters and every other basic office supply item imaginable. If this isn't the first clue that it's time to start back-to-school shopping, who knows what is.
Waiting until the last minute to stock up on school supplies can be a dangerous parental move for several reasons, all of which can equate the end of the world in a child's mind. Stores may be in short supply, or even sold out, of any given supply, causing panic in the eye of a 7-year-old worried about being ready.
Or it's possibly that the choosy child may be left with limited options and may not be able to get the John Cena folder he really wanted. Avoid breaking the child's dream by all means possible.
Take an active and involved role: Many children have anxiety and, in some cases, fear of going to school. This can be especially true if they're changing buildings or starting with a new teacher. Help curb these feelings by taking the child to the school while out running errands.
Showing them the building and being there with them, even if it's not yet time to drop them off, can create an opportunity to talk about the upcoming changes. Likewise, arrangements can likely be made with the school and teachers to meet them before the start of the year, making them feel less like a stranger.
End the summer with a bang: Every kid dreads the end of summer. But help end the vacation on a positive note with one last get-together or seasonal excursion. Whether it's as simple as a pool party with friends in the backyard or a long-weekend getaway, put a capstone on the summer of 2011 and give the child something to talk about on the first day of school.