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Age-by-age back-to-school tips

Expert provides age-by-age tips for helping your children

Expert provides age-by-age tips for helping your children adjust to the new school year. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

In a couple of weeks, many Long Island children will be heading back to school, whether they're going for the first time or heading into high school.

Dr. William Hansen, division of behavioral medicine and clinical psychology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center suggested talking to kids about school before it starts, and encouraged parents to listen closely to their child's fears or concerns.

"This is the time the process of transitioning from summer to school should be underway," Hansen said in a news release. "It's important that parents listen to and respond to their child's potential anxieties about the new school year. It's perfectly normal to experience first day jitters."

Here are some age-by-age tips from Hansen to help prepare your kids for going back to school:

For preschoolers and kindergartners
* Parents should take their children to visit their school and let them play on the school playground, walk through the classroom and meet their new teachers before school starts. Talk to your kids about the new school year, new teacher, etc.
* Show your children educational cartoons to help prepare them for what they will learn at school.
* Establish a "school area" at home to keep supplies. Involve your kids on a school shopping trip and allow them to choose a backpack, notebooks and other supplies.
* If your child is anxious or to help ease the transition for younger kids, parents may want to tuck some small reminders of home (perhaps a picture) in a backpack or lunch.

For elementary and middle schoolers
* Parents should expect that their children may want trendy or “cool” school supplies.
* It's well worth taking a quick trip to school before classes start to help locate lockers and classes. If there is an orientation, be sure to show up for it. 
* Right from the start, help your child get and stay organized. Set up specific homework/study times to help your child develop critical study skills.
* Talk to your child about high-risk behaviors such as drinking, drug use and sexual activity. Middle school is the time when children may begin experimenting with these high-risk behaviors.
* Encourage your child’s participation in at least one extracurricular activity or school club, and let him or her choose the activity.
* Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with the school counselor if you have concerns about how your child is adjusting to school.

For high schoolers
* Help teens set realistic goals on how to earn the best grades.
* Parents should help their teens become organized by buying a daily planner and teaching them how to use it correctly. Or,  teach them how to use iPads, tablets and other mobile devices for this purpose. 
* Encourage teens to get involved in at least one extracurricular activity or sport because it will help them meet people.
* Be enthusiastic and supportive, even if the last school year wasn’t the best for your teen.
* Continue to support and encourage good study habits with regular homework/study times.
* Keep the lines of communication open. Ask questions about what’s going on in your child’s life. (Use open-ended questions, rather than those that require only a yes or no response). Listen closely when the child expresses what is happening in her life.
* Continue to stay involved.  Be in the center of your teen's school life, and you will know what is going on and how things are going.

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