Smart parent tricks for cutting chaos, streamlining school days

(BPT) – School is gearing up and a plethora of activities are starting. From soccer season and dance classes to music lessons and more – fall is a time full of excitement yet major adjustment for families.

“By adopting good habits as soon as school starts, you’ll set the stage for a less-stressful school year, plus teach your children valuable organizational skills,” says Susan Heim, parenting author and editor/co-author of the popular “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.

Keep these tips in mind to streamline busy autumn days so the entire family can stay organized and productive while getting back into a daily routine.

Meet teachers to ease tension
One of the biggest fears students have at the start of the school year is if they’ll get along with their new teacher. The student-teacher relationship can really set a positive tone for the entire year, so consider taking a proactive approach and set up a time for you and your child to meet teachers prior to the first day of school. Phone calls and emails are another way to break the ice if an in-person meeting isn’t possible. This simple step can help calm nerves and make the first day of school less stressful.

Snack smart for sustained energy
Select protein-rich snacks that help fight the afternoon slump by providing energy for kids until dinner time. After all, proteins are part of every cell, tissue and organ in the body, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, providing essential amino acids critical to a healthy diet. Protein- and calcium-rich Mozzarella Sticks from Farm Rich, which came out on top in a taste test by “Consumer Reports” (Dec. 2012), are a tasty, wholesome option for after-school snacking. Farm Rich Mozzarella Bites are another great choice – made with the same quality 100-percent real mozzarella cheese, these bites are surrounded by a soft pizza crust. These warm, nutritious snacks are guaranteed to get gobbled up quickly.

Pack backpacks in the evening
Streamline the morning and eliminate last-minute searches for homework by packing backpacks before kids go to bed. Have kids set backpacks by the door so they can simply grab and go in the morning. Keep in mind, a child’s backpack should have wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back so it is comfortable and safe for the child to carry. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics, and pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The organization states backpacks should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.

Hit the hay before 9 p.m.
Sleep is a critical part of a child’s health and wellness and can affect his or her focus and concentration while at school and beyond. Sixty percent of children under the age of 18 complained of being tired during the day, according to their parents, and 15 percent said they fell asleep at school during the year, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll. Research shows that children who go to bed after 9 p.m. take longer to fall asleep, wake more often at night and get less overall sleep, states the NSF. Be sure to adjust bedtimes so your child gets adequate sleep to feel happy and healthy each day.

Stay organized with a central hub
A sea of schedules, paperwork and permission slips inundates families at the start of the school year. Staying organized doesn’t have to be difficult. Track activities on a family calendar that everyone can check each day. For older kids with phones, tech-savvy families may take the digital route and sync everyone’s calendars together. To cut paperwork chaos, use color-coded folders or different colored plastic bins for organizing paperwork by child. Designate a color for each child or assign colors for varying activities, like band, scouts or PTA. Keep in a central location so everything is available within an arm’s reach. Don’t forget to ask kids for new forms every day to eliminate the likelihood of paperwork getting lost.

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