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Back to school transition starts with healthy routines

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Going back to school can be made easier with advanced planning. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)
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It’s hard to believe it, but school starts for our students next week on Aug. 21. I am so excited to welcome every single student back to a great year of learning.
I know that getting back into a school routine can be a challenge, so I’d like to share tips on how to make a successful transition.

SIMPLE ORGANIZATION
The first few weeks of school are all about getting organized, especially for middle and high school students, who are likely taking up to six or seven different classes a day — and juggling homework plus other responsibilities. So, they need to use academic planners. Unsure if your child has a planner? Just ask!

Don’t have one? Some schools provide them for students, and stores are full of planners you can buy this time of year!

Once you have the planner, go through it with your child to see what will be useful.

As the year goes on, ask your child on a regular basis about any big assignments that are coming up and what he or she is doing to get them done. They need to know that you care about their schoolwork, and just checking in can be a big help.

REASONABLE BEDTIMES
We see our share of sleepy kids during the first few weeks of school. If you haven’t already, start settling your child into bed a little earlier. If getting up on time for school is hard for your child, you’ll be glad you started now.

GROCERY LIST UPGRADE
Summer fun can sometimes lead to a lot of salty or sweet snacks. Now is the time to toss the potato chips and stock up on nutritious foods. Make a fresh start and stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, which are sometimes cheaper than processed food.

For families on extremely tight budgets, the San Francisco Food Bank is a good resource. Once students are back in school, they can eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and sometimes even dinner provided by the San Francisco Unified School Disrict’s Student Nutrition Services.

MAGIC OF QUESTIONS
Once school has begun, start asking open-ended questions like, “What was the best part of your day today?” Remember: Answers like “recess” or even “going home” are perfectly acceptable.

Let your child talk about what he or she likes and doesn’t like about school, no matter what it is. You can try to help solve problems together after listening for a while.

SPECIAL ATTENTION FOR TEENS
Teenagers have been going to school for years, and you may think they have the routine down, but families still play a key role in their teen’s success. As with young children, set limits at bedtime.

Most teens need at least eight hours of sleep to have a good day at school. If winding down at the end of the day is tough for your teen, try to hold on to the child’s cellphones and video game controls — even unplug the TV at bedtime — to reduce distractions. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries, especially with teens, and try unplugging before bed yourself. Every child needs strong role models.

Lastly, parents play an essential role in education. When you help your children arrive to school on time and ready to learn, you are setting them up for success. Let’s have a great year!

Vincent Matthews is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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