The school year is upon us, and as children and teens begin to their journey back to the classroom, some may be more excited than others. Many kids get anxious about the new school year, as they may be apprehensive about their new surroundings or making new friends, or they may need more time to get in the proper mindset of heading back to the classroom. It’s not only the children that may be feeling this angst, though. Parents can struggle with getting back into the school routine too. How can you make sure that your family is ready for this next chapter? The Valley of the Sun YMCA has some tips on how you can make the transition easier for every member of your family.

Going back to school is a challenging time for every family. Not only do kids no longer get to sleep in anymore, but they have to study and return to a daily routine that requires them to sit in a classroom all day. For parents, it means more time spent in the car taking kids to school, soccer practice, guitar lessons and then getting dinner prepared with enough time to get everybody to bed early. It can be tough to get everyone used to this new schedule, but if you plan ahead with a sense of excitement, it can make it a bit more manageable. At the next family dinner, discuss everyone’s plans and come up with a list of drop-off and pick-up times and potential after school and weekend activities. After this, you can narrow down the list if there are any schedule conflicts, and then devise a weekly calendar that works for everyone. It may be helpful to write this down on a large calendar and put it in a visible spot in your home so that everyone is aware of your family’s daily plans.

The Y realizes that many parents have limited options available for After School Care, and that’s why we offer programs at our various branches that provide preschoolers through middle schoolers with fun and engaging activities beyond the classroom. We provide a safe and supportive environment for children and teens to learn, grow and develop social skills. Our programs are fully state-licensed and focus on health, social growth and academic enhancement. Youth enrolled in our After School Programs also take part in group sports and fitness activities as they make new friends and discover more about themselves and their abilities. We have a variety of options to choose from and to learn more, visit: https://valleyymca.org/programs-activities/family-groups/parents-night-child-care/.

Often times, the best part of going back to school is stocking up on new clothes, shoes, backpacks, supplies and gadgets. Kids get excited about their new look for the year, and if you allow them to pick out some of their essentials, this can help them be more enthusiastic about returning to the classroom. Work with them to set up a budget for the amount you want to spend, and have them look online or in magazines for inspiration. When you head out to the store, bring them along and have your list ready, as this will help you stick to your budget and not get carried away. Or if you’re shopping online, make sure to look around at different websites to find the best deal. Don’t forget to make use of coupons or promo codes, or take advantage of tax-free weekends, which can save you even more money.

Even kids who aren’t fans of school can get excited about playing a sport, taking dance or doing art after school. There are activities for kids of all ages and interests out there. The Valley of the Sun YMCA offers sports programs for youth of all ages and we have something every member of your family can enjoy.  If you’re interested in learning about our sports options, visit https://valleyymca.org/programs-activities/youth/sports/. We also offer youth fitness, dance and martial arts classes, and to find out more, visit: https://valleyymca.org/programs-activities/youth/fitness/.

Reading has the power to inspire even the most jaded individual, especially when the books cover topics that your children are interested in and want to learn more about. Research has found that students who read independently become better readers and score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas than those who do not. Whether your child is young or in high school, encouraging them to read daily can help them be successful in their studies. The public library is an excellent free resource that gives you access to books of a wide range of interests and reading levels, as well as librarians to guide you in selecting great books. Take your child or teen to pick out reading materials themselves and while you’re there, get some books for yourself and lead by example. Children tend to read more when they see adults reading often themselves.

If you happen to know which friends your child will be with at school, you may want to schedule play dates with those children to set them up with allies or people to hang out with in class or during lunch time. Often kids will talk excitedly about school together, and make each other enthusiastic. You can also use the YMCA as your meeting point. We provide free child care in our Amazing Kids or Club 5-11 areas for members who are taking fitness classes at our facilities, which can give you with a chance to spend some time with the parents of your child’s friends as they play together. If your child has friends whose families are members of the Y, this may be a perfect way to connect with them and stay active at the same time. Visit your local branch for more information.

Involving your child in shopping for healthy snacks and meals can help get them excited about the new school year as well. Your children will not only enjoy picking out yummy food and treats to enjoy at school or after class, but it also gives you a chance to encourage their healthy eating as you shop together. Make sure these snacks include plenty of fruits, vegetables, proteins and healthy grains.

Many times, children and teens simply need some perspective to get inspired, and if they understand the benefits of education, and what it can lead them to, they can be more motivated to succeed. Take time to explain to your children how getting an education will affect their future, and describe the different careers that will be available to them when they are educated versus when they are not. If your child or teen expresses an interest in a specific career path, encourage them to take the steps necessary to pursue their goals. You can help them in their pursuit by signing them up for classes or activities that will set them up for success in their chosen field.

The Internet is now an integral part of our daily lives, and if used wisely, it can be a helpful tool in the learning process. If your child is struggling in math, for example, the Khan Academy is a great resource to help them brush up on their skills. There also many free online options available to help your child or teen develop their language and spelling skills.

In this day and age, kids have a lot on their plate, and it’s important to remember that they need constant encouragement and understanding to help them make their way through school. Don’t forget to compliment your child for their hard work and to congratulate them for their efforts, not just their accomplishments. Often, the most important lessons come from the hard work put into the project, and not just the grade they received. When your child does their best in their endeavors, acknowledge them for their determination, as this will help encourage them to keep trying. If they struggle, guide them patiently, and use this as a teachable moment to help them progress in their studies. This will not only build their confidence, but it will also allow them to develop a love of learning that will flourish for many years to come.