Be the back-to-school boss

Advice from the experts to help make back-to-school a stress-free and exciting process

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Get organised
Getting started before the holiday season begins is a good idea. You may find what you need in the new year, but stocks may limited. Once you have your supplies, label everything. Make your own labels or order online from itsmine.co.za, justlabels.co.za or thelabelstation.co.za
 
Stay organised
To keep track of chores, extra-murals and other activities, use a magnetic chore wall chart with different colour magnets for each person. Or, create a planner on a whiteboard. Divide the board into 31 blocks for the month’s activities or draw a block for each person. You could also set up a Google Calendar with a different colour representing each family member, then synchronise everyone’s activities and devices.
 
Share responsibility
Children should be responsible for organising their school books and anything else they need. Smaller children can be assisted, but allow older children to take charge and if they forget something – face the consequences. Continually rescuing your children robs them of vital life lessons. Make sure your requests are age-appropriate, tangible and simple, and reward children with positive reinforcement.
 
Homework help
Create a bright and organised homework space with everything at hand. Introduce routine so children know when to do homework, and schedule time for a snack or a play break. Keep the space neat, tidy and quiet, avoiding distractions.
 
Keep it simple
Make notes in your planner of what each member of the family is doing during the week. Include homework assignments, after-school events, social invites and sports activities.
 
Before bedtime, make sure your children put their clothes or uniform out for the next day. Help little ones by limiting choices so that there won’t be issues in the morning. Prepare lunch boxes and water bottles the night before. Have a set routine ensuring that all homework is done and school communication completed and signed the night before. Pack bags and place at the door, with sport kit or other necessary items for the next day. Consider creating pigeonhole units with a special space for each person. Hang your car and house keys close to the exit.
 
Top tip for moms and dads: Don’t turn on the TV, check e-mail, social media and or your phone. Do only what is necessary to get out of the house on time. You’ll thank us later.
– Heidi Meyer from Cloud 9 Organised
 
New beginnings
Prepare children for the first day of school by maintaining an air of excitement about going back to school. Speak positively and encouragingly about making new friends and trying new extra-mural activities. Remember that change is always difficult, it will take some time for a child to settle. Relationships formed in the previous class took a year to develop. Be a little patient. These issues almost always fade as a child becomes comfortable with their new environment.
 
If you suspect your child is being bullied, however, or if you have any other concerns always chat to your child’s teacher first and then possibly the grade head. Dealing directly with the principal should only be necessary when you feel that you have not been heard by the teacher. Do not react immediately to every little unhappiness expressed by your child or try to solve the problem for them. Let them try to resolve issues first. When it comes to balancing school work, homework and extra-murals, ensure your child is not overcommitted. Extra-murals are important, but not to the extent that they place undue stress on your child.
– Shane Cuthbertson, Executive Principal at Thomas More College 
 
Sporting chance
Children should be encouraged to take part in a sport. It is a great way to socialise and develop self-discipline. Expose them to a variety of sports, so they can find out what they like or don’t like, and what they have an aptitude for. As they grow older, and their skills become better in a certain sport, they can decide to stick to one or two sports. It’s advisable to let them participate in both individual and team sports, so that they can develop different skill sets. Team sports help them develop feelings of belonging and cohesion, which play an integral role in early development. Support your children in everything they do, offer to lift and watch them play a match. Many parents want their child to be the best, to be successful and a winner. But, remember that it’s not always the coach’s fault if the team loses. However, if they do feel the coach is not delivering, then this should be addressed through the correct channels. Children, and parents, should understand the sensation and meaning of winning and losing!
 
If your child isn’t particularly sporty, try to demonstrate the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle by playing with them. Kick or throw a ball with them, ride bikes, and swim in your local pool. School sport isn’t everything, but staying healthy and active is important, so make fitness fun.
– Lindi Prinsloo from Coaching Dynamics
 
Read right
A great way to start off the school year is to incorporate reading into your daily routine. Reading time, both to the child and/or with the child reading, allows the development of a variety of skills. It allows for print awareness, conversation and vocabulary development. It also aids in story comprehension that includes listening memory and sound awareness. These pre-literacy skills play an important role in reading development at a school level and should be a part of daily routines both during holiday and school time. Games like ‘I spy’ or ‘Mommy went to market’ are also fantastic for improving sound awareness and auditory memory.
– Laura Cramb, Speech Therapist
 
Eyes and ears
Most schools offer hearing and eye tests, both of which play an important role in ruling out possible barriers to learning or identifying such barriers as early as possible in your child's school year. Remember that hearing can change due to ear infections, glue ear, or viral infections such as measles and mumps, so it’s advised to undergo hearing screening on a yearly basis before the age of 7. This is particularly important as children below that age aren’t able to verbalise changes in vision or hearing.
 
Speech therapists form a valuable part of the support staff at school. Through early identification of language, speech, literacy or auditory processing difficulties, children are able to receive the support needed at a one-on-one level and at a classroom level through collaboration with staff. Early identification allows children to become more confident as they achieve success.
 
Look out for these speech red flags:
  • children who have difficulty reading and spelling, sounding out words, breaking words into parts, and who rely solely on sight word recognition
  • children who struggle to follow instructions of increasing length
  • children who struggle to form clear structured sentences in conversation and who battle to answer questions related, for example, to what they did at school
  • children with various articulation (pronunciation) errors
– Tamsin Geddes, audiologist
 
Eat right, eat smart
Breakfast should ideally include some form of protein and fat. Try eggs served on a slice of wholegrain, rye or gluten-free toast with some avocado. French toast is a winner. The next best thing is rolled oats served with chopped nuts and a little honey. Opt for raw honey over sugar, but limit this to one teaspoon.
 
Lunchboxes should include a range of foods with some form of protein (leftover chicken, cocktail meatballs, MSG-free biltong), good fats (nuts, seeds, olives, avocado), at least two different types of vegetables, a wholegrain (bread, crackers, wraps, pasta, brown rice cakes, or corn thins) and a fruit. If a child opens a lunchbox and finds a colourful spread, they are more likely to eat.
 
Snacks when children get home. If they get home at 3pm you can give them a small meal – boiled egg, wholegrain crackers, vegetables or some leftovers from the night before. If they get home at 5pm, it’s usually better to opt for something like a small handful of nuts with an apple. If you eat dinner at 7pm, and your child is ravenous at 6pm, offer up salad. A ravenous child should be up for eating a salad. If not, the child isn’t that hungry.
– Hannah Kaye, nutritional therapist 
 
Tips for good nutrition
Hannah Kaye, a nutritional therapist, offers parents the following tips to ensure the quality of their children’s nutrition.
  • If a child is fed a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates at the same time as a diet low in good fats, vitamins and minerals, they cannot be expected to concentrate or have the nutrients needed for neuronal health. That’s an oversimplification, but everything we eat affects us in some way – it’s important to make sure that the majority of the diet has a beneficial impact.
  • The field of ocular nutrition is relatively new, but some good research is coming out on the importance of certain phytonutrients in eye health – for example the carotenes e found in yellow/orange vegetables. Additionally, DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, essential for eye health is mostly found in fish.
  • Parents need to pressure tuckshops to stock healthy food. Parents should also educate children about what constitutes healthy eating so that they can make good choices.
  • Not-so-obvious sugars include dried fruit – two pieces of dried yellow cling peach constitute a whole fruit – rice cakes with yoghurt or chocolate topping, and fruit yoghurt. It’s usually tough to find healthy treats in shops. Make your own biscuits, bars and granola that are low in sugar and high in good fats. Look out for coconut and nut bars sweetened with dates, these are great grab-and-go snacks to keep in the snack drawer.
  • Children should drink water at school, fruit juice is extremely high in sugar and has little nutritional value. Energy drinks are also high in sugar, often contain caffeine and are loaded with additives and colourants. Many contain amino acids in high amounts that may not be safe for children. If your child has a healthy diet, they should have enough energy to get through the day. A protein smoothie before exercise may be a good idea for very active children. If your child is constantly tired, speak to your healthcare provider to rule out conditions like anaemia.

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