Get your kids ready to head back to school

Ease the summer-to-school transition with these tips


The words "back to school" usually fill parents with an equal mix of elation and jitters.

After all, how can you be expected to get all those extra chores done when you haven't even gotten to everything on last year's back-to-school list quite yet?

With your kids seemingly plugged permanently into a mythical never-ending summer, getting them going again can be hard, to say the least.

All these thoughts and more are running through your head and then you hear the voices. They are coming in out from outside demanding food and drink. Gritting one's teeth too loud wouldn't be a good idea. Maybe it is time to get started.

Repeat after us: this year is going to be different. Just follow the five following tips to help ease the summer-to-school transition.

Let's start by getting a good night's sleep ...

Roll back those bedtimes

Kids feel as if they own the world because they don't have to go to bed as early. Again, this year is going to be different.

Bedtimes should ideally start to change two weeks before school, moving back gradually until they match up with school year bedtimes.

If your kids are above the age of 9 or 10 and can interact relatively well, have a family meeting to discuss bedtimes. Introducing a reward system is an especially good way to get their attention.

Let them know each will be given 150 points to start the back to school preparation period. Those who comply with the new bedtime get to keep the points, which they can "cash in" for an agreed-upon reward.

On the flip side, complaints, whining and tantrums result in lost points and a much smaller reward when it comes time to cash in.

Our next tip ensures your students can make a fashion statement without hurting your bank statement ...

Set a strict clothes budget

Budgeting is the buzzword in most households, especially these days. But kids often have eyes for clothes like they do for birthday cake: they always want more.

Before hitting the stores, spread out the back-to-school ads and let your kids know what this year's clothes budget will be. There will always be certain items kids consider status symbols that they just have to have. If their fancied item is outside of your budget, suggest chores to make up the difference.

Tell each child how much you can spend on them. They can have a hand in stretching the budget if they find items on sale or a lay-away-plan. Anyone participating in a practical manner -- meaning no eye-rolling -- can have the opportunity to earn additional reward points.

Any child who is still moaning and oozing a bad attitude after all this will be subject to loosing some points.

Moving on, be sure to make those list and check them twice ...

Do your homework on school supplies

Even the most veteran back-to-school shopper can get rattled by the school supply list.

In these times of budget cutbacks, students have become responsible for an ever-growing list spanning everything from folders and notebooks to disinfecting wipes and graphing calculators.

So what can you do to cut down on the cost of all those supplies? Start by getting the list early. If you haven't received your school's list yet, make a call or head online to at least get a hint of what's coming. After all, shopping around for the best prices takes time.

Put your kids to work finding the best bargains on the Internet. Everyone who finds bargains will add points to their total.

But don't go too far for a bargain. The decision on where you shop should be based on both prices and mileage. It may turn out that shopping online is the most efficient, but don't forget to factor in shipping charges.

Up next, it's time for a checkup ...

Prepare now for doctor's visit

Kids are exposed to more germs and ailments than we saw growing up. There is no magic bullet, but a checkup helps.

But these days, not all families can afford the regular visit to the pediatrician's office. Insurance is an item too many families are forced to live without. Check out local medical clinics and find out what the prices are for needed examinations and booster shots.

Let your children know several weeks ahead of an appointment. Offer extra points for those who don't cause any trouble. The promise of a quick fast-food run afterward is a good way to quiet any fussing.

Also add some bonus points to all who go quietly, especially to those who require injections.

For those new to checkups, let them look up what exactly happens on various websites

Our final tip is strictly by the book ...

Reacquaint yourself with the library

Most kids may love ignoring mental activity during the summer, but now's the time to get them back into gear by putting a book in their hands.

Begin by picking a date to start trips to the public library. Most libraries are open nights and many have at least limited weekend hours.

No child is too young to benefit from a trip to the library. If your child is old enough, have them write a few words about what they read. The older your child, the more demanding your book report requirements can be.

Work this into your rewards system as well: an honest effort on a book summary earns them more points while no book summary equals a loss of points.

Bringing the kids into back-to-school planning will be hard at first, but remind them that next year bonuses will increase and exercise patience at every step along the way.