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Surviving September
By Stacy DeBroff

~ Stage a fall fashion show with your child to figure out which clothes are outgrown and should be given away.

~ Think about items that you need that you would rather not buy new. Who can you ask for hand-me-downs?

~ Check the status of sneakers and shoes for the fall.

~ When shopping for back-to-school clothes, have your child wear tight-fitting shorts and a top, so she can try the clothes on without going to the dressing room.

~ Mail-order catalogs can be time-savers. Have your child help pick out what he likes, and it saves you a shopping trip.

~ Try on new shoes in the evening, since feet can swell as much as half a size during the day.

~ Make sure your child can remove and pull on his own shoes. Velcro works wonders if your child has not yet mastered lace tying.

~ Buy clothing that is easy to manipulate for using the bathroom at school. Zippered jeans might look adorable, but your child will be embarrassed if he needs to ask for help zipping them up and buttoning them closed. Elastic waist pants are the way to go in nursery school and kindergarten.

~ Find out what school supplies, if any, your child will need. Have the
teachers requested specific contributions?

~ Buy your child see-through containers to help him sort items in his locker or cubby.

~ Make an appointment to introduce yourself to the school nurse early in the school year to review medical issues or recurring conditions your child faces, so when your child does need attention, the nurse will have some background information.

~ Return medical forms to the nurse before the year starts. Make sure she has contact information for you, your partner, or the person who would pick up your child in the event that you are not available during the school day.

~ Schedule time to meet with your child's new teacher. Think about how you plan to interact with her and the classroom at large.

~ What academic and developmental issues do you anticipate your child facing this coming year? Create a system to keep track of questions and issues to go over with your child's teacher.

~ Set up playdates with other kids your child knows in the incoming class or new children that you want your child to get a chance to know before school starts

~ During the first month of school, check with your child’s teacher for play date suggestions to help your child build friendships.

~ Decide how many after-school activities your child will enroll in, as well as how he will get there after school, and how he will get home. Discuss choices with your child.

~ Think through what schedule for your child will best fit his needs, as well as those of the rest of your family. Leave free time for play and downtime each day. Is his schedule too busy?

~ Make sure you have received written confirmation of your child's enrollment in each of these programs, along with a calendar of key events and days off.

~ Inquire about whether you will need to purchase a sports uniform or equipment for dance, athletics, music, art, language, or other extracurricular activities.

~ Think through transportation logistics.

~ Figure out whether or not your child will be able to walk to school. Take the route with him. Find out where your school or town provides crossing guards. If you don't feel comfortable having your child walk alone, arrange for siblings, friends, or neighborhood kids to walk together.

~ If your child will be taking the bus, find an older neighborhood friend who can serve as a bus buddy. Practice walking to the bus stop with your child. Make sure you know the number of the bus route he will be taking and the name of the driver. Find out what times the bus comes by each morning and afternoon. Invite neighborhood families to a potluck bus stop breakfast the first day of school.

~ Decide if you will be driving your child or using a carpool. Find out where to pick up and drop off students at the school.

~ Have a handy list of the names and numbers of families in the carpool.

~ Familiarize yourself with the route to school and directions to all other kids' houses.

~ Ask the school if members of the carpool need release notes in order for all the kids to be picked up by one parent each day.

~ Set up a schedule with the other members of the carpool, along with a contingency plan in case of illness, vacations, etc.

~ Communicate specific requests to the other drivers, such as never letting a child sit in the front seat.

~ If a nanny or care provider will be transporting your child, find out if she needs a note for the school in order to do so.

~ Ask your child if he feels excited, anxious, or a little bit of both. Ask him what specific worries he has for the upcoming year.

~ Remind your child that school is his job, and as such very important. Being considerate of classmates, listening and cooperating with the teachers, following school rules, approaching learning with best efforts and an open mind, and completing assignments are things that go into a job well done, and expectations that you have of him.

~ Start resetting your child's waking and bed times. Begin transitioning to an earlier bedtime, and get your elementary school child his own alarm clock to help with morning wake-ups and take the burden off of you.

~ Get a large family calendar with big blocks to write in, and assign each family member a colored pen or pencil to use so you can tell at a glance who has to be where.

~ Start a list of important names and numbers for your child. Keep it in one place, and leave room for mid-year additions, such as new coaches, friends, etc. Important numbers to include:

~ School's main office and nurse's office
~ Teacher's number/home number if she is willing to speak after hours/only in emergencies
~ Carpool or bus drivers' names/numbers
~ Coaches' names/numbers
~ Sitters' names/numbers
~ Phone tree numbers
~ Names/numbers of playmates and parents, frequent calls
~ Contact information for parent groups, PTA

~ Work backwards to figure out exactly when your child needs to be awake and out the door in the morning. Calculate how long eating breakfast, dressing, brushing teeth and hair take for your child. Factor in how much transition time your child needs between waking up and launching into that morning routine.

~ Think about whether or not your child needs your help to get settled into the classroom, and consider arriving on the early side to ease that transition.

~ Consider what you can do the night before to make the morning routine go more smoothly. Have your child’s lunch and book bag packed, clothes laid out, homework checked and permission slips signed. Check the calendar to see whether you need to pack your child a change of clothes and a smock for art, or gym clothes.

~ Make a designated area near the door for each child to store things that need to go back to school.

Stacy DeBroff is President and founder of Mom Central, Inc., a company devoted to providing pragmatic tips and advice to strengthen busy families and enhance the home environment. She is the author of several best-selling books on household and family organization including The Mom Book: 4,278 Tips for Moms; Sign Me Up! The Parent’s Complete Guide to Sports, Activities, and Extracurriculars; and Mom Central: The Ultimate Family Organizer. For more information, visit www.momcentral.com

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