When you are a parent, you discover - eventually' that being organized is the key to surviving the day-to-day joys and challenges of having kids. This includes the inevitable return to school. Some areas to organize for a successful school year include:Sleep: Your children may have adjusted to later nights and sleeping in. Start to go to bed a little earlier each night, and get up a little earlier each morning. Set a regular time for bed each night. Avoid feeding children big meals close to bedtime and anything with caffeine less than six hours before bedtime. Establish a calming bedtime routine, i.e. a hot bath, reading a book, cuddle time, or sitting and talking. Good quality sleep can help your child learn more easily, improve concentration and memory, and reduce many behavioral problems. Generally, children need an average of 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night.

Breakfast: Experts say that having a nutritious breakfast helps kids stay focused, concentrate, and have a more positive attitude about school. What is a nutritious breakfast? It includes fruit, whole grains and protein. You might eat fresh fruit or fruit juices, hot or cold cereal, muffins, waffles, eggs, meat, milk, or yogurt.

School Clothes: Set out clothes the night before. This decreases the morning panic. It helps to organize your children's drawers and closets. Sort out clothes that no longer fit and make a list of clothes they will need for school.

Homework: Set a regular time and place to do homework. Decide on a quiet place with limited distractions. Turn off TV and radio.

The night before, place homework and papers with needed signatures in the backpack.

Exercise: Regular exercise helps with stress, concentration, weight, sleep, muscular strength, and self-esteem. Encourage your children to use stairs instead of elevators and walk or ride a bike to a friend's house. Place a time limit on the use of TVs, video games, and computers and encourage outdoor play.

As a parent, you have a big impact on your children. It's important to monitor your own stress level about your children's return to school. Put irrelevant projects on hold, stay rested, and try to spend extra time with your children. A new teacher, new classrooms and new friends can feel overwhelming. Try to listen to their worries and don't try to talk them out of them. Be reassuring-their fears are real to them.

In order to find out about additional ways to strengthen our families and support our children, Friend, Inc. Community Services offers three parenting programs, "Parenting the 5-to 12 Year Old," "Parents and Tots Time Out," and "Parents of Teens." On Monday September 29, Friend will begin a 6-week session of Parenting the 5-12 Year Old. For information or to reserve a space call 610-683-9012.

To inquire about other groups or learn about additional services at Friend Inc. such as money management mentoring, case management or food pantry, call 610-683-7790 or visit www.friendinc.org.

Contributed by Rita Lieb, Case Manager/Outreach Coordinator at Friend, Inc. Community Services.

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