Finding a new routine as kids get back to school can be a challenge, but here are some tips that might help as students step out of their homes and back into the classroom. 

The Catholic Standard sat down with Anne Dillon, director of special education at the Archdiocese of Washington’s Catholic Schools Office, to find out how parents can best help their students throughout this new school year. Dillon worked in public school education for 30 years before moving to Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, where she helped establish its resource center for students. Her specialty has always been in special education, she said, and specifically with high school students. 

  1. One of the best things parents can do for their children, Dillon said, is to create healthy habits. “Establish some clear routines at home,” she said. “Kids need that consistency.”
  2. In finding a routine that works for each family, designated time for homework and other activities, such as family meals, can help create a reliable schedule that kids find balanced and comfortable. Having a regular bedtime can also benefit this routine, and setting out the things your child will need the next day, the night before, can help “avoid the morning scramble,” Dillon explained. 
  3. Beyond the daily routine, Dillon said creating an environment of rest for children can ensure they are sleeping and growing well. “Don’t let them go to their rooms with their screens,” she advised. Dillon said research shows that the blue light from screens signals to the brain that it is day time, making it more difficult for people to wind down and sleep.
  4. A dedicated space in the public rooms of the family home can help students stay focused on their homework, and allow parents to stay in tune with what their students are doing. “Talking about what their day looks like,” Dillon said, “reinforces what they’re learning.” 
  5. Dillon said that parents should make sure their kids also get some “brain breaks.” Getting outside or playing games with the family after dinner is a great way to spend time with one another and get their minds off of school. But these “brain breaks” can be a great addition to the family routine, and fit in with the homework schedule.
  6. As far as making sure kids are completing their homework assignments, Dillon said to “be in it with them,” carving out an appropriate amount for corresponding age group to complete their homework, and then when it is finished, making sure everything gets back in that backpack.
  7. In the classroom, Dillon said smooth communication between parents and teachers can help students succeed. Checking the student’s backpack every day is one way Dillon said parents can learn a lot about what happens at school. “A lot of teachers are really good about putting the student’s things in their backpacks,” she continued. 
  8. When social and emotional concerns arise for students, Dillon recommends that parents continue to have conversations with students about how they are doing, with extra communication to teachers and the school, if the parent suspects anything that may be happening with their child. Other signs, such as not sleeping well and other signs of stress, may indicate that something is occurring. 
  9. Above all, Dillon said, that family prayer is one of the best ways parents can foster faith in their children throughout the school year. “Praying as a family is one of the most beautiful things we can do,” she said. “Make the faith real in students’ lives, teach them to live it… Teaching them to talk to God is such a powerful thing.”