2015 Back to School Guide

. July 31, 2015.

Making A Smooth Transition Back

by Emily Remaklus

Parents are cheering and the kids are groaning… it’s time for school once again! It’s a new year full of successes and challenges, making friends, fun activities, and the dreaded homework. So how can you ensure you’re ready for this school year? Our guide, filled with advice from experts, is here to help!

The idea of kids going back to school with the possibility of not knowing anyone in their class can be a scary thought for children and parents alike. However, one easy way to help a child make friends is by getting them involved in extracurricular activities. Marissa Rex, an elementary school counselor for Washington Local Schools, offers the advice to “look for free or less costly events in your neighborhood, attend after-school functions, see what clubs or activities your child’s school already has in place. This will help your child branch out, get more confidence, and find other children with similar interests.” Finding shared interests can be the best way to start up conversations with someone new.

For children that are typically shy, it can be especially difficult to make new friends. Rex often explains to kids that the other child they are trying to meet may also feel nervous. “Go ahead and make the first move and be okay with the word ‘no’. It stings, but you never know until you try.”

For parents, it is important to remember that childhood friendships typically do not last forever. Children change throughout the years, and their friendship groups naturally alter.

“No one can force us to be their friend and we should never try to do the same. Friendship is something that should be positive and rewarding for both individuals.”

One of the great joys of summertime is the opportunity to stay up late, sleep in, and lose that strict schedule often put on kids during the school year. But now that summer is ending, it is important to get kids back to a regular routine. According to Dr. Kimberly Hunter, assistant professor of psychiatry at UT and a clinical psychologist, “It is highly recommended that children have set bed and wake times.” Without a set routine or enough sleep, kids can develop problems such as “increased fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating at school, hyperactive and impulsive behaviors and reduced academic performance.”

For a school aged child, 10 to 11 hours of sleep at night is needed. To ensure they can fall asleep easily, it is recommended that electronics be turned off an hour before bedtime. Instead of watching TV or playing video games, encourage your child to read a book or listen to music before falling asleep.

Dr. Hunter suggested that a good way to get a child back on a scheduled bedtime and wake up time is for “parents to start fading their children’s bedtimes backward 5-10 minutes every few nights to help them reach the desired bedtime and amount of sleep that their child’s age requires.”

The start of a new school year is a chance to start fresh. Yet when starting fresh means having to buy new school supplies and clothes, then the start of the school year can have parents in fear. Fortunately, there are many stores that offer great bargains for back to school shopping. Stores like Target and Office Max will offer really low prices on most school supplies if you shop at the right time.

Lisa, a mother of three, has had years of experience with back to school shopping and advises, “when buying supplies, buy extras to store at home for halfway through the year. In January, if you need school supplies, they will be much more expensive than at the beginning of the school year.”

Another piece of advice she shared was to know what supplies you can save on and which ones you should splurge with. “Don’t go cheap on pencils, because cheap pencils don’t usually sharpen right and have erasers that break right off”.

Another local mother, Katrina Kuhn, shared information on the Ohio Sales Tax Holiday. This holiday is a three day event in Ohio from August 7-9 that will exempt taxes on school supplies, instructional materials, and clothing.

More information on this special tax exemption weekend can be found at tax.ohio.gov.

Kids are always taught to share, but when it comes to germs, kids can share too well. Back to school often means preparing for all sorts of possible illnesses that can spread through a school like a wildfire. According to Dr. Karolyi, a pediatrician at Perrysburg Pediatrics, some of the most common illnesses that occur at the beginning of the school year are the common cold, strep throat, pink eye, and gastrointestinal illnesses.

Dr. Karolyi stated that if the child has a fever over 100 degrees, or has any vomiting or diarrhea, then they should be kept home. “Strep or pink eye require at least 24 hours of antibiotic treatment before the child should return to school and the child should be fever free for 24 hours before returning.”

Though germs are inevitable, there are some easy prevention methods that can help keep your child healthy. First of all, frequent hand washing is a must, especially before lunch and after recess. Another simple tip is to sneeze or cough into the elbow rather than into the hands. This keeps the germs from spreading onto everything the child touches. Also plenty of rest, exercise, and a healthy diet are essential for staying well.

Schools have recently started focusing more on serving healthy lunches, but if you have a picky eater or want to save some money, packing a lunch might be the best option. However, it is important to remember that a child needs a lunch that will not only energize them, but will also fill them up for the rest of the day.

Some great ways to ensure your child will eat their lunch is by involving them in the lunch making process. If a child has helped prepare the food they will be more willing to eat it. This also goes for the lunchbox itself. If you allow your child to pick out a lunchbox they like, they will be more excited for lunchtime.

When it comes to picking out a lunchbox, look for the lunch coolers. These will keep lunch foods that need to be refrigerated cool during the day, and allow for more lunch options.

A healthy lunch should be made up of one-third starchy foods like breads and pasta, a dairy product, protein, fruits and veggies, and a healthy beverage such as milk or water. For lunchtime recipes, many parents recommend Pinterest, a site free to use that allows you to view other parent’s healthy lunch ideas and share your own ideas.

When kids go from running and playing all day to sitting at a desk for seven hours, it can be a difficult transition.

Teachers can help kids stay active by incorporating activities in their lesson plans. Tessa Allard, co-director of YMCA Child Care at Whitmer/Washington Local Program Center, explains, “One very effective and easy way to get kids active is having teachers plan five minute ‘energy boosters’ to get kids out of their seats.” This can simply be five minute stretching breaks. Other options include having class outside, taking the students for a walk, or setting up learning centers in the room where students can actively move from center to center throughout the classroom.

Everyday activities are also a great way to keep kids active. Allard states, “Everyday tasks such as walking the dog or raking the leaves are great ways to keep children active!” After school programs are another option. According to Kacy Myers, associate executive director of West Toledo’s YMCA, organizations like the YMCA and JCC offer a variety of youth sports programs, dance classes, and swimming lessons.

Keeping kids active, especially when they go back to school, is extremely important. Myers explains, “Regular physical activity improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, and increase self-esteem.”

Have other ideas on how to keep kids active throughout the school year? Share them with us on Facebook!

Technology: It can be a blessing or a curse

For schools, technology has become a vital part of student’s day. It was not too long ago when computers weren’t even a possibility for schools because they were so new and expensive. Now computers are old news and pretty much mandatory for success.

Recently tablets and smartphones are playing larger roles in education. These devices are small enough to transport from class to class, and with textbooks being omitted in some schools, the replacement is digital textbooks. The option to carry all textbooks on a small device definitely can be beneficial.

Along with these devices come apps which can be very educational for students. However, according to a recent article published by CBSNews, it is very important to find out which apps are actually educational and which ones are just distractions from learning. The article suggested looking for apps that connect what the child already knows to new information and apps that encourage conversation with other children or adults. One app that was highlighted was Alien Assignment which has the child fixing a crashed spaceship by going on a scavenger hunt around their house and taking pictures of the objects that could be used.

If planning on using apps for learning at home, be sure to research the app to make sure it will actually be of educational benefit. Also it is important to remember that apps can be in addition to working at home with an adult, but should not be a substitution.

Rise of social media boosting the risks of cyberbullying

by Laura Kretz

Last April, Anthony Wayne High School student Kayla Meeker, 16, took her own life after alleged being subjected to cyberbullying. Shortly after this tragedy, it came to light that another Anthony Wayne student, Kaylee Halko, had experienced cyberbullying when a student from a nearby elementary school created an Instagram page mocking her progeria, a genetic disorder.

Anthony Wayne is not alone in experiencing cyberbullying. According to NoBullying.com, cyberbullying is on the rise and is most prevalent at middle schools.

“The truth of the matter is it doesn’t really get us anywhere if we deny how significant this issue is,” said Dr. Lisa Pescara-Kovach, associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Toledo as well as a campus prevention and protection trainer with the U.S. Department of Justice. “We really need to teach the difference between normal conflict and bullying.”

Working tirelessly with many Toledo area schools and families, Dr. Pescara-Kovach helps to create bullying-free learning environments. She counsels children in hospitals and as outpatients if they suffer from depression, suicidal thoughts and/or anxiety.

Defining Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place through social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Vine. Bullies utilize these platforms by uploading photos which are intended to be embarrassing, tweeting insults or posting malicious comments. Cyberbullying can be problematic because anyone can post and multiple people can chime in, sometimes anonymously. This differs from traditional bullying, which is the repetitive and constant verbal harassment or physical violence from one person or a group of individuals.

Parents may be tempted to ban their child from social media sites altogether, but Dr. Pescara-Kovach does not recommend this action. “It’s such a part of their world,” she said.

Because cyberbullying often occurs infrequently and without any pattern, identifying and disciplining the bully/bullies can be a challenge. In addition, school officials struggle to update bullying policies alongside the ever-changing technology and its byproduct of cyberbullying. In Halko’s case, because the creation of the page constituted only one incident, it was deemed not an act of bullying.

State laws aimed specifically at cyberbullying do exist, however. Ohio’s Jessica Logan Act focuses on creating safeguards for students, including requiring schools to have anonymous report forms accessible. Sometimes the responsibility for implementing this law and others lies with schools having the resources to counteract the growing problem. Also, cyberbullying can happen after school hours and outside the school premises, which could make disciplining bullies a legal challenge.

Spotting the Signs

Though there are many factors intertwined with this problem, parents and guardians must first and foremost assess the situation and address their child’s vulnerability. They should be aware of the warning signs that their child may be experiencing cyberbullying. According to Pescara-Kovach, if your child seems hesitant or obsessed with logging onto social media websites, this warrants some concern. Both extremes could indicate that your child faces cyberbullying on the other side of the screen. Also, if your child becomes aggressive, withdrawn and/or their grades drop, this is worrisome. Really, any change of behavior should serve as a warning sign that cyberbullying may be affecting your child.

As for preventing your child from partaking in cyberbullying, Dr. Pescara-Kovach recommends talking with your child and simply being there for them. “Kid’s don’t want to be bullies. Something’s going on in that kid’s life too that we want to help with.” Apps such as SocialProtection.com are now available for parents and guardians to monitor Facebook content on the child’s account and alert parents/guardians when questionable or dangerous content is posted.

“The minute they have social networking sites, the minute they get on for interacting with other people, parents should be aware,” said Dr. Pescara-Kovach.

For information on cyberbullying and resources, check out stopcyberbullying.org and www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/.