In many countries across the world, August signals the start of ‘back-to-school’ season. Transitioning out of a vacation mindset and back into study mode can be a challenging juggling act, especially for the parents of middle- and high-school students. While you may have had several months of quality time as a family over the summer, you’re now turning the page in a book where the chapters of your kid’s life are marked by school years.
As your children become more independent, they may increasingly get involved in activities that don’t require your participation. Yet, you’re still the most important person in their life, and you need (and likely, want!) to remain involved and committed.
Being involved without smothering your kids can help them stay enthusiastic about school and extracurricular activities. A few back-to-school tips and tricks can help both you and your teen transition into the new school year.
1. Get students ‘ready’ for school
School days start at home, and parents can set their kids up for success by implementing back-to-school tips and tricks into their family’s daily routine. Help them tackle the morning without intruding on their growing independence in the following ways:
It goes without saying that a proper breakfast helps teens and middle-schoolers start the day strong. That first dose of energy should be part of an established morning routine, including sufficient time to eat, digest, and travel to school.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children (aged 6–12 years) should regularly get 9 – 12 hours of sleep per day, while teenagers (aged 13–18 years) should get 8–10 hours every night. Set firm bedtimes and ensure there is adequate time to decompress after extracurriculars and family time.
Limit screen time
Knowing how hard it is for adults to limit their time spent staring into their phones, you can imagine just how challenging it can be to pull teens away from texting, streaming, and watching TikToks with their friends. But too much screen time can be extremely detrimental to a healthy schedule, and can seriously impact quality of sleep and overall wellness.
Granted, students these days have a certain amount of necessary screen time baked into their lives. Whether it’s to write papers, conduct research, or submit their homework online, your child is likely to require the use of devices and screens to keep up with school.
Rather than instating a blanket limit on your child’s total amount of permitted screen time, you might consider limiting recreational screen time instead. Research shows that imposing a two-hour recreational screen time limit is associated with improved cognition. Enforce this by establishing rules and conditions related to your kids’ access to their phone, computer, or TV, including a structured time for logging off. Many devices even include various settings that enable you to limit the time spent using specific apps or programs.
2. Help them develop organizational skills
No one is born with great organizational skills, as any parent who has had to clean up their child’s room can attest. Like anything else, the act of organization requires practice and learning. Indeed, learning to organize their lives can lead to greater success in middle school and high school, which can form the basis of success later in life.
However, schools rarely teach time-management skills. Parents looking for back-to-school tips and tricks can give their teens and preteens a boost by helping them learn these essential skills at home. That means assisting them with things like organizing their time, managing homework and assignments, and enabling them to keep track of all the things they need to do themselves.
Power tip: Keeping track of your children’s schedules alongside your own can be a challenge, which is why Evernote offers templates specifically built for school purposes. These templates help you organize and track schedules over a daily, weekly, monthly, or semester-wide scale—allowing you to incorporate those tips in the way that best serves your kids.
3. Set them up for homework success
Homework becomes more challenging and complex in middle and high school. More classes means more to learn (and more to do!), which in turn can make for longer and more intense homework sessions. It’s not uncommon for tweens and teens to have multiple hours of homework each school night. Managing that workload can go a long way in helping them organize and stay on top of the rest of their life.
Location, location, location.
Every child should have a designated space at home for homework. It should be quiet and well-lit, with enough school supplies nearby so the child doesn’t have to break concentration. It should also be free of distractions, including phones, TVs, and personal devices. A computer with internet access is often necessary for homework, but establish a clear distinction between when it should be used for schoolwork versus leisure activities. Parents can check in from time to time to make sure their kids are staying on task. It’s also a good idea to set a specific start time for homework each night.
There’s no such thing as over-communicating
Communication is incredibly important when it comes to making sure your children are staying on top of their homework. Talk to them about their class schedule, which classes are the most demanding, and the best ways to approach their homework. Encourage transparency and be ready to look for solutions. Tweens and teens should feel confident in knowing that it’s always okay to ask you for help.
Power tip: Encourage focus and prevent overwhelm by utilizing Tasks in Evernote. It’s a good way for students to organize their notes and schedule in one place. Sort tasks by due date, creation date, or by which note (i.e., class) they’re in. You can also can add due dates and reminders to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
4. Encourage participation in extracurricular activities
Extracurricular activities have countless benefits and are important to consider when planning for back-to-school. They provide opportunities to make new friends and let students become more invested in school while engaging in enjoyable activities. It also fosters your teens’ independence and develops teamwork and leadership skills. Some school activities even lead to scholarships or internships.
At the same time, your kids will inevitably develop their own interests through trying different things. As parents, you should encourage participation in extracurricular activities while asking them about their interests to find the best matches.
Power tip: Connect your Google Calendar with Evernote so you can easily keep your kids’ activities linked to permission slips, supply lists, or any other important info you might have. Have more than one kid? Evernote Professional and Teams customers can link multiple calendars, making it easy to manage each of their schedules—as well as your own.
Equip your kid for their best school year yet
It’s important to stay connected with your kids, while still giving them the freedom and flexibility they require (and deserve) to discover themselves. But classes, new activities, and expanding social circles make parents’ jobs infinitely more challenging.
Tools like Evernote can help keep their schedule organized while keeping them focused. Your children are the biggest, brightest, and best investment you will ever make. The better you equip them today, the further they will go tomorrow. Evernote even offers a discount of 50% off Personal plans for students! Armed with a great organization system the whole family can use, as well as these handy back-to-school tips and tricks, this may just be their best school year yet.