Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Helping Your Child Adjust to School

By Christina VanGinkel

Your little one started school this fall, and after a few weeks of classes, they suddenly seem to be running low on steam. Is this normal, you might be asking. After ruling out any potential illnesses, you can rest assured that it is normal. They are suddenly facing a structured time away from home. Even if they were previously in daycare, school is a different scenario. More rules, more structure, more tasks, more reason to be tuckered out at the end of the day. If they are in half-day school, you will notice some of this, but most likely not to the extreme that a child who has been thrust into an all-day school may exhibit.

Be sure to question, if a schedule has not been sent home, their daily routine. Be sure they are getting adequate rest time and snacks. If they are there all day, what is the routine for lunch like? Do they have enough time to eat? A visit to your child's school for the day is one of the best ways to put their day into perspective for you. I did this when my youngest child was in Kindergarten. I was amazed at how tired I was by the end of the day, and it was a good way to gain a viewpoint of where he was coming from at the end of each day.

If your child rides a bus, be prepared for them to fall asleep while riding, especially if the ride is a long one. My son's bus ride was then, and is still, nearly an hour long from the school to our rural home. During his first week of Kindergarten, I can remember watching the bus go right by our house and going into a panic. The driver stopped the bus at the next corner and came back. She had seen me waiting and realized that my son was not on the bus, or so she thought. He had fallen asleep on the seat, with his head on his backpack in place of a pillow. When she went by our driveway, besides seeing me waiting, several other older children had also spoke out to remind her that he was indeed on the bus, but was sleeping.

When they get home, they may also be ravenous, and unable to wait until dinnertime, especially if it is some time away. Be prepared with some healthy foods that will bridge the gap between school and dinner. Avoid letting them fill up on sweets and chips, as tempting as it may be to let them snack on whatever they want.

As much of an interruption to a child's carefree existence as anything else will ever be in their life, keep in mind that it is normally a 'good and valid' interruption. Your child will adjust, as will you. Soon, they will be getting through the school days with more energy, as their internal time clocks adjust to the structure. In addition, you can rest assured that every weekend, they will somehow find the energy to still be awake at dawn to watch their cartoons!

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