9 Back to School Pro Tips

This article was originally published on the US Department of Education’s Home Room blog by Dorothy Amatucci. The photo is copyright 2015 by Geoff Livingston under Creative Commons license, provided and modified by Illinois PTA.

Back to school time can be a hectic time for both you and the kiddos. These are some of our best back to school tips to help ensure this school year gets off to a great start!

  1. Visit the school. Walk or ride the route your child will take and make note of school patrols, crossing guards and high traffic areas along the way. Talk to your kids about NOT talking to strangers and find out what, if any, policies your child’s school has regarding early arrivals or late pick-ups. Learn about the school’s entrance and exit policies. Then, if you can, pop in and check out what the inside of the school looks like.
  2. Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher. Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher and ask him or her about the preferred method of communication. (Some teachers are active on email and social media, while others prefer the phone or in-person meetings.)
  3. Make homework a priority. Make homework time a daily habit. Find a quiet and consistent place at home where your child can complete his or her homework. If your child is having difficulty with his or her homework, make an appointment with the teacher sooner rather than later.
  4. Prepare a study area. Set up a special place at home to do school work and homework. Remove distractions. Make it clear that education is a top priority in your family: show interest and praise your child’s work.
  5. Take charge of TV time. Limit the time that you let your child watch TV, and when you do decide to do TV time, make it a family affair. Talk together about what you see and ask questions after the show ends.
  6. Get everyone to bed on time. During the summer, children aren’t always on a schedule, which is understandable. But, proper rest is essential for a healthy and productive school year. Help your kids get back on track sleep-wise by having them go to bed earlier and wake up earlier at least a week in advance of when school actually starts.
  7. Make healthy meals. Let’s face it – no one can concentrate when they’re hungry. Studies show that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches do better in school. Fix nutritious meals at home, and, if you need extra help, find out if your family qualifies for any child nutrition programs, like the National School Lunch Program.
  8. Get a check up. It’s a good idea to take your child in for a physical and an eye exam before school starts. Most schools require up-to-date immunizations, and you may be asked to provide paperwork showing that your child has all the necessary shots and vaccines. So, check your state’s immunization requirements. And, always keep your own copies of any medical records.
  9. Plan to read with your child every day. Make a plan to read with your child for 20 minutes every day. Your example reinforces the importance of literacy, and reading lets you and your child explore new worlds of fun and adventure together.

 

Helping Your Child Cope with the First Day of Kindergarten

Photo © 2012 by Lesley Show under Creative Commons license.

The first day of kindergarten is a big transition for your child. Some children are excited and ready to go, perhaps because they finally get to do what their big brother or sister has been doing. Others can find it a source of worry and fear.

Edutopia has an article about how to ease your child’s kindergarten fears. The article addresses five key steps you can take, and has several strategies for addressing each one. The five are:

  1. Practice saying goodbye.
  2. Learn the lay of the land.
  3. Address your child’s concerns directly.
  4. Establish a goodbye ritual.
  5. Keep your eyes open.

The article notes that it is important to watch for an increase in confidence and a diminishment of worries as they become more comfortable with the changes. Check out the full article to learn which strategies might help your child have a smooth transition to kindergarten.

News from National Convention: Resolutions

PTA resolutions are a way for the membership of the association to express its opinion and intent to address issues affecting the lives of children and youth. They focus and formalize the position of the PTA on a variety of issues. At the 2017 National PTA convention in Las Vegas, the delegates adopted one resolution and added one more resolved clause to an existing resolution.

Resolution on Healthy Sleep for Adolescents

Any parent of a teenager knows how hard it can be to get them in bed at a decent hour, much less get them out of bed the next morning to get them to school. Research confirms this, noting that adolescents have their sleep patterns shift from those of their younger years, having difficulty falling asleep before 11:00pm and functioning at their best when allowed to sleep until 8:00am.

Unfortunately, many teens are not getting the 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep that they need each night. More than two-thirds get less than 8 hours of sleep on school nights. The reasons for this chronic sleep deprivation in teens is varied, but include large amounts of homework, busy extracurricular and work schedules, poor sleep routines (including using cell phones and other backlit screens shortly before bed that can disrupt the ability to fall asleep), and early school start times. Approximately 40% of high schools in the United States start at 8:00am or earlier.

The result of this sleep deprivation in teens results in increased risks in many aspects of their lives, including an increased likelihood of accidents due to impaired driving, an increased risk of depression and suicide, and an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, and other physical health problems in adulthood.

Early school start times have been identified as a key, but easily modified, component of adolescent sleep deprivation. Schools that have moved start times later for their older students have seen not only decreases in tardiness, absences, and discipline issues but also increases in student performance and greater participation in extracurricular activities.

To address these issues, the resolution calls on PTAs to educate youth, parents, educators, school personnel, school boards, athletic coaches, athletic organizations, state board of education members, and the community about the positive impact that sufficient, quality sleep has for teens’ health, safety, academic success, and future earnings.

PTAs are also encouraged (modified by the delegates from “urged” in the proposed resolution to address areas of the country with limited daylight hours during part of the year) to collaborate with other stakeholders and policymakers to develop solutions and policies that allow teens to get sufficient, quality sleep. National PTA is directed to work with the Department of Education to encourage states and school districts to incorporate standards regarding sleep needs and patterns, potential risks of insufficient sleep, signs of sleep related difficulties, and healthy sleep habits into existing health, science, physical education, and other appropriate curricula.

Proposed Amendment to Resolution on Sale, Resale and Destruction of Firearms

In 1996, the National PTA passed a resolution on the sale, resale, and destruction of firearms. Later that year, the Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that included the Dickey Amendment, an amendment that prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using funds for injury prevention and control to advocate or promote gun control. In the same bill, $2.6 million, the exact amount that had been allocated for firearms research the previous year, was earmarked for traumatic brain injury research.

The Dickey Amendment has been interpreted to mean that the CDC cannot conduct research into gun violence, and appropriations for the CDC since 1996 have continued to include the amendment. The Obama administration and Democrats in Congress attempted to remove the amendment in 2015, but were unsuccessful. It is also important to note that Jay Dickey, the representative for whom the amendment is named, has since stated that the CDC should be allowed to research the causes of gun violence, noting that “doing nothing is no longer an option.”

The amendment to the 1996 resolution inserts a new resolved clause that states: “That the National PTA and its constituent bodies shall seek and support legislation for state and federal funding initiatives for the research of the causes and effects of gun violence.” The delegate body voted to split the amendment into two resolved clauses, one directing the National PTA to work for federal legislation and funding and one directing state PTAs to do the same on the state level.

The National PTA legislation team that submitted the amendment stated that the reason for amending rather than submitting a completely new resolution was that the 1996 resolution specifically mentioned CDC research, but since that time, there has been extremely limited research to fully support a new resolution.

 

Protecting Your Kids from the Sun

Summer means spending more time outside, and with that comes an increased risk of sunburns. For children, sunburns significantly increase the risk of melanoma (skin cancer) according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Even one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can nearly double a person’s chance of developing melanoma.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, with 20% of Americans expected to develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Rates of melanoma have doubled since 1982 despite an increased use in sunscreen. The reasons for this increase are numerous, including increased use of tanning beds (especially by adolescent girls) and infrequent or improper use of sunscreen.

Protecting Your Child

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a list of things you can do as a parent to protect your child from the sun.

  1. Seek shade: The ultraviolet (UV) rays that cause sunburns and skin damage are strongest during the middle part of the day, so plan indoor activities during those times if possible. If not, finds some shade under a tree, umbrella, or pop-up tent. These should be used to prevent sunburn, not to seek relief after it’s happened.
  2. Cover up: When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts. Clothes made from tightly-woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet t-shirt offers less protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter ones. Some clothing may have a UV protection factor listed based on international standards.
  3. Get a hat: Hats that shade the face, scalp, ears, and neck are easy to use and offer great protection. Baseball caps are popular, but don’t protect the ears and neck. If your child wears a cap, be sure to apply sunscreen to their ears, neck, and other exposed areas.
  4. Wear sunglasses: While sunglasses don’t protect from sunburn, if they block both UVA and UVB rays, they can protect your child’s eyes from exposure to UV rays. Such exposure can lead to cataracts later in life.
  5. Apply sunscreen: The CDC recommends using a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 rating. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30 as a minimum. For best protection, apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outside, remembering to protect the ears, nose, lips, and tops of feet. Reapply sunscreen throughout the day, especially after your child exercises or swims, even if using a waterproof or water-resistant sunscreen. Combine sunscreen with the other options above to prevent the sun from damaging skin.

Other Things to Know

The CDC also provides some additional tips and information on protecting your child’s skin from the sun.

  • Turning pink: Unprotected skin can be damaged in as little as 15 minutes, but it can take up to 12 hours for the skin to show the full effect of exposure. If your child looks “a little pink,” it may be a burn in a few hours. To prevent further damage, get your child out of the sun before they hit “pink.”
  • Tan: As the CDC puts it, tanned skin is damaged skin. Any change in color of your child’s skin indicates damage from UV rays whether it is a suntan or a sunburn. The “healthy, tanned glow” of your childhood is now known to be an indicator of potential skin cancer in the future.
  • Cool and cloudy: Just because it is cool or cloudy doesn’t mean you can’t get a sunburn. It is the sun’s UV rays that damage the skin, and clouds only slightly weaken UV rays. So be sure to use sunscreen and the other recommendations when spending time outside even on cool or cloudy days.
  • Oops: Summer activities have a way of running longer than we expect—Little League games that drag on or not wanting to head home when the kids are having so much fun on the playground. Plan ahead by having additional sunscreen on hand in your car, stroller, bag, or backpack so you can reapply it when the fun doesn’t want to end.

Photo © 1985 by Erin Stevenson O’Connor under Creative Commons license.