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School rules for parents

The new school year is upon us. Parents, are you ready?

Preparing for the new school year can be stressful for many parents. The purchasing of school supplies, shoes, socks, uniforms, lunch kits, etc. can be taxing on the purse, mind and body. Then, during the school year, parents must supervise homework, sleep (and wake) time, meals, study time and uniform preparation, etc.

Parents, you play a major role in helping your children to be successful during the upcoming school year. However, these are much more difficult times for raising children compared to just 10 years ago. High definition television/videos, super smartphones, powerful handheld computer-like tools, Wi-Fi everywhere, easy-access communication apps — WhatsApp, Snapchat, etc., and lots more, make parental control of growing toddlers and teens all the more difficult. Therefore, it is imperative that parents be ahead of the game.

Tips to help you ease your load:

• Wake up before your children;

• Set bedtimes to allow each child to have at least 9.2 hours of sleep per night;

• Prepare a healthy meal each morning;

• Control television viewing times;

• Create a comprehensive timetable or schedule of household chores;

• Let children get their clothes ready for school;

• Attend Parents and Teachers’ Association (PTA) meetings; and

• Reward any improvement.

Know where smartphones are at all times: parents, if you deem it necessary to give your child a smartphone, make sure you are always aware of its location, especially when not in school. Smartphones, iPads and laptops have a way of managing the lives of your children. They rob them of valuable sleep, healthy face-to-face social interaction and much-needed study time.

“Children spend much more time daily with digital devices than before. Many of them sleep less when they watch digital screens,” states Valerie Strauss in the September 2018 Washington Post article entitled “Schools are Banning Smartphones”. She stresses this important point: “Evidence from around the world suggests that children do not sleep enough, do not eat enough healthful foods and do not engage in enough daily outdoor physical activity.” Most believe that smartphones might be the cause.

Provide sensible restriction on the use of smartphones:

• Do not give children under the age of 13 their own smartphone. If you deem it necessary, make sure they only have the phone during specific times of the day and for only certain important reasons. For example, so they can be contacted when they are not with you or they might need it for school purposes;

• If you really think it necessary for your toddler to have a smartphone, it is imperative that you have an access code on the phone that is only known by the parent. Therefore, for the child to use the phone you will have to put in the code. This will provide the necessary direct supervision;

• Restrict the amount of time a child can use the smartphone for just social reasons (other than schoolwork). For example, only allow 20 minutes per day for those ages six to 12. Children ages zero to two should not use any electronic gadget. For children ages 13 to 18, limit use of smartphones to one hour a day; and

• Take the smartphone away from all your children who are school-age when it’s time for bed. Turn off the Wi-Fi at a certain time if necessary.

Have sensible study rules: it is important that parents do not require their children to sit for long, unbroken hours to do homework or study. This burns out the brain and energy faster. Do not tell them “you are not getting up from this table until you are finished, no matter how long it takes”. If the time allocated for study is three hours, divide that time into 30 to 45 minute periods. Those under age 10 can have 20 to 30 minutes. The child is to take a five to 10-minute break between each period and then return to study or do homework. During the very short breaks, the child (toddler or teen) can use the bathroom, drink water, go outside for fresh air, stretch, take deep breaths, etc. To make this successful, the child is to be supervised by the parent or guardian. You will discover that, with this method, a child can concentrate better, and the retention span is more efficient. Here’s what the parent can say to the child: “Robert, you have two hours to study today and I want you to keep focused on your work during that time. Therefore, I want you to take two five to 10-minute breaks every 30 minutes to allow you to refresh. I will remind you of those breaks.”

Parents, please take the supervision of your children seriously. They need you.

• Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board-certified clinical psychotherapist. Send your questions or comments to barringtonbrennen@gmail.com; write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas; visit www.soencouragement.org; or telephone 242-327-1980.  


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