Get a head start this September: Prepare now for back to school

The sun sure took its time coming out this year, and September is already upon us. If you're like me, just when you start getting the hang of your family's summer routine, a wave of fall activities and school responsibilities begin again.
As a pediatrician and a mother of a 6- and a 9-year-old, I am very familiar with the additional work that the back-to-school transition brings. Yet somehow, from year to year, I forget about that 2-inch thick packet of paperwork the kids reliably bring home that first week of school or all of the additional registration, permission, insurance and medical forms for all of their extracurricular activities that land in my lap.
Add to that the school-supply shopping, the fall-clothing shopping, shifting bedtimes and the transition to new teacher/classroom/homework routines, and it's not long before I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving break.
So what's a parent to do? Planning ahead can make all the difference. Here are some ideas to ponder.
Agree on routines
Set a specific homework time that works well for your child's and family's schedules - avoid the very end of the day when your child's energy will wane.
Decide and discuss your family's policy about daily time limits for computers, TVs, MP3 players, etc., as well as their use during study time.
Minimal interruptions and distractions while studying maximizes study time, so keeping cell phones and TV out of the study area is ideal.
New or first-time student?
Take advantage of any scheduled events to meet teachers, classmates and families. Most schools offered opportunities for new students to familiarize themselves with their new learning environment and to meet their teachers before the first day of school; if they were not offered, ask.
Don't forget to play on the playground, too.
Schedule well-child checkups
Take your kids for their annual well-child physical exam during the summer when you can, before school starts, to avoid taking time away from work or school.
By scheduling early, you could have avoided the last-minute rush to get those required immunizations and sports physicals.

Create a master calendar
Include a calendar on your supply list.
Posting a family-event calendar with everyone's daily activities on it in a common area of the house (such as the kitchen) helps everyone stay on track.
Some families prefer sharing on-line calendars, while others find a good, old-fashioned dry-erase calendar works just fine.
Set up a study space
Be sure each child has a study space that's well lit, quiet and free of clutter.
Younger children benefit from a parent close by to oversee homework time.
Plan for school lunches
Plan healthy school lunches and snacks to eat after school and sports. A nutritious lunch includes a protein, a grain and a fruit or vegetable. These are good choices for after-school snacks, too, and help to create good eating habits.
Parents can still avoid "September shock" and get off to a great start of the academic year.

Dr. Gloria Arand is a board-certified pediatrician at Pacific Medical Center's Northgate clinic.[[In-content Ad]]