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The New Year Restart

For most children, early January means the inevitable return to school after a long holiday break. When they’ve been enjoying weeks of movies, games, late nights, sleep ins and family gatherings, getting them ready to return to the classroom is no simple task. But it’s crucial to do so as quite often the pace of learning speeds up after the holidays when teachers try to make the most effective use of the time between the winter and spring breaks. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help get your children over the post holiday blahs and back into their normal school day routine.

RESTART THE SCHOOL ROUTINE IN ADVANCE Children by nature seek out routines, and with no school during the holidays, they create a new, more relaxed routine though adults may have trouble seeing it. So don’t wait until the night before school starts to begin getting them ready for class the next day. Instead, a week or so before the holiday ends, start easing them back into their normal school routine by going to bed early and getting up at a regular time daily. If you normally help them choose the clothes they wear to school, start putting their clothes out the night before during the back to school transition.


During the holidays many families adopt a fend for yourself attitude toward break fast, and this needs to end. If children arrive at school hungry, they’ll be sluggish and distracted. Or if they’ve been fed donuts or a highly sugary cereal, chances are good their energy level will crash early in the school day. To avoid school day distractions and lethargy, begin preparing filling, nutritious breakfasts from things like oatmeal, fruit, and toast with peanut butter in the run up to heading back to the classroom.


Remember their teacher’s main goal is to help your child live up to his or her full potential. Thus, before the holidays it’s a good idea to arrange a meeting to discuss any attitude or behavior that might be holding your child back. And if things seem to be going all right, it doesn’t hurt to send a post holiday note or email of appreciation to keep the lines of communication open.


Back to school also means back to homework, so consider if your fall homework routine was the best for all concerned and make adjustments, if necessary.


It’s essential to maintain your confidence. Parenting is not an easy task, but you and your child have already made it through half the school year, and with a little fore thought and patience, you’ll make it the rest of the way.


During my forty plus years as a college history professor, I always dreaded the first day of classes after the Christmas holiday break. Many of those staring blankly at me as I stood in front of the classroom were both physically and emotionally spent after weeks of shopping, feasting, and celebrating, and no one was in any mood to consider things like President James Madison and the origins of the War of 1812! With the wisdom of hindsight, I now realize that much of their agony and mine could have been reduced if, like their younger siblings, they had taken a few steps to prepare for their return to the classroom, and the work ahead of them during the coming semester. So, for any college students (or their parents) perusing these pages, an old history prof offers a few suggestions.


To reduce the stress of returning to class after a long holiday break, think of setting some goals, both academic and non academic. Not very good in a particular subject? Make up your mind that

you’re going to throw yourself into it with some gusto and conquer it. My nemesis was math, and I had to take a trigonometry class the last semester of my senior year. I jumped into the class with both feet and not only passed it, but I almost enjoyed it! Beyond the classroom, consider expanding your circle of friends or exercising more to get in better shape. Setting some attainable goals can help make the return to campus more exciting and less onerous.


During the rush of holiday activities, try to set aside time to review your work in the fall and think about ways you might improve on that during the coming semester. Try to get course syllabi for the classes you’re planning to take in the upcoming semester. Carefully consider all course requirements and make sure you’re not taking on more than you can handle. If possible, it might help putting off a particularly challenging class for a semester or two, as long as you eventually take and complete it!


Like your younger brothers and sisters, gradually start easing out of the holiday festivities by reducing the late night hours and getting 8 or 9 hours of sleep, along with less holiday fare and spirits, and more nutritious meals.


For many students, one of their most rewarding collegiate experiences comes from establishing a healthy, professional relationship with an admired, accomplished professor who can help you navigate some of the more difficult academic challenges. And it’s quite possible that your mentor might provide invaluable networking support for you in your profession long after your college years are behind you. Unfortunately, only about 56% of those who enroll in colleges and universities graduate. No one individual can change that statistic, but my hope is that my few words of advice will smooth your path a bit and help you become one of those eventually walking across the graduation stage with diploma in hand.

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