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Preparing kids to go back to school

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With school starting back up today, it’s good to keep an open line of communication with your children and ask them open-ended questions like, “What was the best part of your day today?” (Cindy Chew/2008 S.F Examiner)

Hard to believe it, but school starts today for our students. We are 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.

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.

Upgrade your grocery list

Summer fun can lead to a lot of salty or sweet snacks around the house. Now is the time to toss the chocolate chips and stock up on nutritious foods. Buy fresh fruits and whole grain breads, for instance, which are sometimes even cheaper than processed food. For families on extremely tight budgets, the San Francisco Food Bank is a good resource.

Ask questions

Talk with your child about his or her day. Ask open-ended questions like, “What was the best part of your day today?” (Remember that “recess” or even “going home” are acceptable answers.) Let your child talk about what he or she likes and doesn’t like about school, no matter what it is.

Pay attention to older students

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 — and 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.

Simple organization for teens

The first few weeks of school for teens are all about getting organized. High school students are taking up to six or seven different classes a day — and juggling homework plus other responsibilities — so they need to use academic planners.

Not sure if your teen has a planner? 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 teen on a regular basis about any big assignments that are coming up and what he or she is doing to get them done. Teens need to know that you care about their schoolwork, and just checking in can be a big help.

You play a big role in your child’s 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!

Richard Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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