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The new school year has just begun and with it comes a whole host of obstacles and challenges that can hinder your child’s success.

The best way to prepare children for a good year is to sit down with them, in a quiet space, and discuss the expectations, responsibilities and, perhaps, any fears they might have about the coming year. Some children are nervous about getting up on time for the bus, others with keeping up with the homework and some with social expectations. Listen to your children, emphasizing the positive growth they experienced last year, no matter how small, and role-play any potentially challenging scenarios. Remind them that last year came and went, and so will this coming one.

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The number one way to avoid many of the typical challenges that could delay a child’s success and growth in the coming years is by utilizing a well-thought out routine. Speak with your child about a typical day, and delegate which of you would be responsible for what. It would be a good idea for him or her to write down or draw a list of the responsibilities. It’s a great memory tool and will ensure a good day in school and at home.

For example, the list could include:

Clean laundry – Parent is responsible for providing clean laundry, child is responsible for laying out his clothes the night before and telling parent if a particular item is needed for the coming day.

Backpack – Child is responsible for bringing home notes to parent, parent signs all the notes, child repacks backpack for next day.

Lunch – Parent will do the shopping, child will help prepare lunch and make sure dirty containers are in the sink every afternoon, etc.

The list should be as extensive as possible and will provide a framework for a child to feel empowered and in control of his daily schedule.

Homework

You may have seen the new policy issued by a public school that announced the extension of the school day and less homework. Until our schools implement that policy, we are faced not only with long school days, but plenty of homework to complete afterwards. Afternoons are precious, as the hours seem to disappear before it is time to go to bed.

It is best to avoid playdates during the week so that when a child comes home from school, he can focus on dinner and completing his homework in a quiet, relaxed manner. Ask the child if he would prefer to do homework as soon as he comes home so that he can relax the rest of the evening, or after dinner, when he has had a chance to take a break.

Bedtime

Very little throws a child off his routine than an irregular bedtime. Until the teen years, a typical child needs approximately 11 hours of sleep a night. Making an early bed time a regular habit is the easiest way to avoid any fights about going to bed.

Food

A child who is early to bed is early to rise, and that gives her ample opportunity to eat a hearty breakfast with whole grains and healthy protein. A solid breakfast paired with healthy snacks will help the child avoid indulging in the fast foods most schools call lunch, thereby enabling her to continue focusing on her afternoon classes, instead of falling into a carb-induced coma. For those parents who are courageous enough to avoid school lunches completely, it is best to prepare the fixings the night before, and have your child take the early morning time to pack his lunch box.

There will be times when you and your child will get overwhelmed with the responsibilities of an older grade, but remember as we head into the new year that after finishing a 12-week summer vacation and approaching a month of Jewish holidays, quickly followed by Chanukah, mid-winter vacation, etc., etc., there is hardly any school anyways, and the year will be over, hopefully for the better, before you know it.

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Pnina Baim is the author of the Young Adult novels, Choices, A Life Worth Living (featured on Dansdeals and Jew In The City) and a how-to book for the Orthodox homemaker, Sing While You Work. The books are available at amazon.com. Pnina is available for speaking engagements and personal consulting. Contact her at pninabaim@gmail.com.