By Jason Wright
With Labor Day behind us, Shenandoah County schools are finally in full swing. The new school year means crisp shirts, squeaky sneakers and lunch boxes that are still fresh. Never mind that soon they will smell like they should only be handled by lab techs in HAZMAT suits.
It also means reams of advice for young scholars to succeed -- or at least survive -- the year. But where's the help for mom and dad?
After an exhaustive, highly unscientific survey of parents, I've compiled 10 school year survival tips for moms and dads.
1. Get sleep. Good parents often lock their kids into nighttime routines and early bedtimes, but then neglect their own sleep with television, the Internet and social media. While it's true that every parent needs winding-down time, it shouldn't come at the expense of a good night's sleep. Well-rested moms and dads are happy moms and dads.
2. Plan ahead. If your child packs a lunch, prepare over the weekend so the nightly or morning routines are simplified. If they need gym clothes only on certain days, develop a system that makes the mornings a breeze. If you spend more time preparing when the clock isn't screaming at you, you might feel less rushed when the school bus is on final approach.
3. Think budget. Every year we're surprised when our children come home needing money for fees, field trips or yearbooks. Early in the year, ask teachers, coaches or office staff exactly what expenses -- mandatory and optional -- might pop up during the year. With a number in mind, it should be easier to budget in September for checks you might not write until May.
4. Say no. At most schools, there are more opportunities for adults to volunteer than available hours in the day. Select the committees or activities that best fit your skill sets and interests and learn to say "no" to the others. No bake sale or candy bar fundraiser is more important than the children they benefit. Programs come and go, and so do your kids.
5. Homework counts. Consider establishing a set schedule for your children to do homework. They should know that no matter the assignment, homework isn't just about a smiley face sticker or grade point average. It's one of the habits that can create successful adults who finish what they start, meet deadlines and work well without someone looking over their shoulder.
6. Know teachers. As kids progress through school and their schedules become more complicated, it's naturally tougher to remember names and details about every teacher. But as the challenge grows, so does the need. Make an effort to know every teacher's name and what they're teaching your child. Respect them and their efforts and they're likely to respect you and yours.
7. Don't overschedule. Just because your child wants to join every club doesn't mean it's a good idea. Work with your student to determine which sports, clubs or activities are most interesting and provide opportunities for growth. We should be willing to allow our children to try everything, but not necessary all at once.
8. Be positive. Even the best parents can sometimes sound sarcastic and negative about their children's teachers, assignments or other school experiences. Remember, it won't take long for your opinion to become theirs. Be positive toward your children and the new school year. Whenever possible, deal with legitimate concerns privately and out of your child's universe.
9. Eliminate distractions. Technology can be a blessing, and most of us have more than enough electronic devices to provide hours of both education and fun diversion. Consider that especially during the school year, these video games, cellphones, social media sites and television shows can become a major distraction to successful students. Implement reasonable limits and remember that each child and distraction may be different.
10. Enjoy it. Try this: Survey friends and family whose children have grown and left home and ask if they wish their K-12 years had gone faster. Almost without exception, they will tell you how badly they want those years back.
Believe it or not, they probably miss the back-breaking back-to-school nights, the five-hour choir concerts in folding chairs suitable for torture and practicing spelling words for the Friday test. Mostly, they miss waiting by the window and watching the yellow school bus stop in front of the house at the end of the day.
They would give anything to trip on a backpack in the hallway.
They would gladly fix another after-school snack.
They would sit through a 30-minute re-enactment of the lunchroom drama.
One day, if you're lucky, so will you.
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters" and "The 13th Day of Christmas." He can be reached at email@example.com or jasonfwright.com.