Do you hear that? It’s the sound of kids all over the U.S. groaning as it’s time to bid farewell to lazy summer days and gear up for pop quizzes, book reports, and homework. That means parents too have to buckle down and get back into a serious school-year schedule. The struggle is real, folks.
It’s a stressful time for any parent, but for many military families, this year may mark a transition to yet another new school. Others might have a parent deployed or who is prepping for deployment. The key to a worry-free year is staying one step ahead. Here are some helpful tips and suggestions to help eliminate the potential for disruption.
1. Make it easier for teachers to get to know your kids.
Military kids attend an average of nine schools. Sound familiar? Traditionally military families have battled new schools on everything from credit transfers to ill-fitting class placements. But thanks to the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children — legislation that addresses educational issues faced by transitioning military kids — enrollment, attendance, and eligibility issues don’t arise as much. All 50 states have signed this groundbreaking agreement, but school administrators, particularly in areas not near a major military base, might be unfamiliar with the standards. Familiarize yourself with the legislation, so you can advocate on behalf of your child.
Another idea to ease the transition to a new school? Ask your child’s previous teacher to write a short note describing your child, his or her personality, strengths, and unique learning style. This note can be shared with the new school registrar who is tasked with trying to find the best classroom and teacher match for your student. Give a copy of the note to a new teacher too. Share completed summer completed reading lists or any supplemental work with new teachers as well.
2. Keep track of the time your family spends giving back.
Community service, particularly, for middle and high school age students, is often a requirement for graduation. And since research shows and military families volunteer at a higher rate than civilians, your child has most likely already logged hours volunteering. Each school district has its own requirements, so it’s best to start keeping track of all those hours. Use a log system that you can add to and ask supervisors to regularly sign off on the record to keep it updated and official.
3. Schedule annual doctor and dentist appointments before school kicks off.
It might keep the doctor away, but kids still need regular checkups from doctors and dentists. New to town? Browse the MetLife civilian dentist list list to find a dentist in the network and get everyone’s pearly whites checked and shined before the first day of school. After classes begin, it’s always harder to score an appointment and there’s homework to contend with too. Immunizations and regular checkups with a family physician are important, but if you’ve moved a great distance, you might be enrolled in an entirely different TRICARE region.
And don’t forget Fido or Gary the cat. Moving can be stressful on animals. Best to get your furry family members in to see the vet too.
4. Plan a neighborhood party so your kids make friends in a new location.
How often has your child been the “new” kid in town, and ended up excluded from events, parties, and celebrations? Ouch. It hurts. Be sure and invite everyone in the class to your child’s birthday party. Better yet, throw a “Back to School” ice cream social and get to know neighborhood kids and new school pals.
Scour Pinterest for low-cost invitation ideas and spend an afternoon with glitter and glue. Pass out invites to neighbors, fellow military families, and civilian buddies. Set up a sundae bar and let kids play pastry chef. Crown a guest best cookie decorator and host a rematch at the end of the year. It will be here before you know it.
5. Make cents of a new area with a new budget.
Now that the season is changing, it’s time to take a renewed look at the family budget. Don’t forget to incorporate after-school sports and extracurricular activity costs, so you aren’t caught off guard when your soccer star suddenly shows an interest in lacrosse. Of course, for military families who have moved, the cost of living in Texas is wildly different than maintaining a home, car, and kids in Washington, D.C. Once you’ve figured out average utility and grocery store expenditures, adjust spending and saving accordingly.
6. Keep kids happy and healthy with fresh produce in their lunch boxes.
Making lunches every day can be a drag. How many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can one parent make? This year, commit to a fresh, rainbow approach when preparing this ultra-critical meal for your children. Eliminate processed prepackaged kits that can be high in sodium and instead opt for fresh fruit, protein-packed snacks like edamame or cherry tomatoes, Greek yogurt, or sunflower seeds. Bring kids to the local farmer’s market and let them pick out a special veggie each week and experiment with fun recipes. Last tip: Skip the juice box and send water instead.
7. Organize neighborhood bike commutes to school to save time and gas money.
Consider a two-wheeled alternative to the morning commute. How many of us waste precious time sitting in carpool lanes dropping off and picking up our kids at school? Instead, have kids ride a bike or scooter to school. It’s a great lesson in independence and a confidence booster. Gather neighborhood kids and parents and organize a bike or scooter brigade so kids can travel together. Map out a route and take a few practice runs before the first day. Then pick out a fun helmet, a nifty light, a bell and away they go.
8. Transition your children onto a new sleep schedule before school starts.
Last but certainly not least, start easing your kids back into a school-time sleep schedule. Teachers will thank you when your kid is wide awake and ready to jump back into a learning program. Pediatric sleep physicians, like Cami Matthews, recommend parents gradually move back wake-up time by 15-20 minutes every two or three days until children are back to where they need to be for the school year. Then adjust the bedtime accordingly. Don’t forget that iPads and televisions can trick the brain into thinking it’s daytime making it harder to fall asleep. Reinstate the 8 pm electronics ban so tired brains and growing bodies can get a restful night’s sleep. That goes for you too, Mom and Dad.