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"Back-to-School Fairy" and Unrealistic Expectations for Parents

A Practical Back-to-School Survival Guide

These days, it seems that companies have framed back-to-school season as some type of holiday complete with marketing ploys designed to target parents' pocketbooks. Here's how to manage unrealistic expectations in your household during back to school.

Getting Real

While some kids embrace the prospect of a new school season with unbridled enthusiasm, most view it with at least some amount of worry or apprehension. At the same time, parents often feel pressure to provide the right clothes and supplies to help their children fit in. While it's virtually impossible to create the perfect launching pad for your child's school year, you can take some simple, proactive steps to reduce tension and promote a happier, more successful experience.

Ease into the routine. It's not easy to switch from relaxed summer evenings to strict school nights. If your child has been enjoying a later bedtime, begin weaning them away from this as soon as possible. Start sending the child to bed a few minutes early every night, beginning a couple of weeks before the start of school. You should also start getting the child up earlier every morning. You don't want your child to be drowsy and inattentive when classes begin, so take proactive steps to make sure he or she will be acclimated to earlier bedtimes.

Tool up for success. Get a class supply list early on, so you can get the instruments your child needs to feel more prepared. Stick to basic needs at the outset, leaving a little leeway for minor splurges such as colored pens, a cool notebook or new shoes. Again, focus on basic needs, so you will have a few dollars left over for other necessities that are sure to come to light a week or two into the school year. Be honest with your child about your budget and clearly define exactly how much you can afford to spend on clothing. You should also consider allowing your child to practice with any unfamiliar school supplies, such as scissors, a protractor or glue.

Fuel up for focus. We've all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and science appears to back this up. According to several studies , breakfast has a measurable positive impact on on-task behavior in the classroom in children. That said, not all morning foods deliver the same boost. To give your child steady fuel for a long day, choose a low-glycemic morning meal, such as oatmeal, eggs or yogurt. Because these foods take longer to digest, they provide steady energy for longer periods of time. Avoid sugary cereals, which can cause big insulin spikes and fatigue related to crashes.

Tour the school. Even for the very young, back-to-school time brings anxiety and fear. Ease this tension by visiting the school and classroom a few days in advance. Meet the teacher if possible and visit the cafeteria. If your child is in elementary school, let him or her play on the playground for a while to help generate positive emotions about the school. All of these steps help to give children a better picture of what to expect, so they won't have so much fear of the unknown.

Talk to your child. It's not always easy to get children to talk about their experiences at school. Many times, it's just as hard to get them talking about their feelings about returning to class after a long, fun summer. Let your child know you are available to provide nonjudgmental support whenever they need it. Just like adults, children often talk about fears, worries or problems, not to get answers, but to express their feelings. If you have something constructive to offer, feel free to offer it. Most importantly, be available to listen and provide a much-needed hug. This type of encouragement can go a long way toward easing fears related to a frightening new experience.

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