Hemelt: Avoid taking on back-to-school stress this month

Published 12:02 am Saturday, August 6, 2016

It’s officially back-to-school time in the River Parishes.

That means expected and unexpected challenges, nothing new for St. John the Baptist Parish.

There were two St. John Parish public schools without power Wednesday — the first day back for teachers — thanks to some hellacious rain that swept through our area, dumping more than two inches in approximately 30 minutes.

It was only 12 months ago that the local public school district started the school year by ushering in a rebuilt East St. John High to then suffer a devastating fire at East St. John Elementary just days later.

With all of these large-scale concerns, it’s easy to see why many students (and quite a few parents) are most apprehensive this time of year.

Stress levels are high, especially for some of the younger students in our community.

This is something especially near and dear to my heart because my first grade daughter and third grade son are starting a new school this month.

Thankfully, there are plenty of little things parents can pull out to ease the fears and, in fact, turn back-to-school time into a celebrated experience.

Former L’OBSERVATEUR writer Monique Roth tackled this subject last year by providing readers with a list of fun activities to add some fun and excitement to the back-to-school buildup.

My favorite of her suggestions was “hidden notes.”

She suggested a super quick and easy idea that can bring a smile to your child’s face is to tuck an encouraging note into their lunchbox or book bag.

The sweet, unexpected measure of assurance is sure to calm some nerves.

I took that suggestion to heart and had personalized notes waiting in my wife’s car for our children’s ride to school on their first day. It worked great, and it is now something I would like to turn into a family tradition.

So for all the parents looking for something to get their children excited about this school season, please check out some of our favorite suggestions.

• Celebrate School Year’s Eve: Build up anticipation about the first day of school with a New Year’s Eve-style celebration the night before.

Put up some quick and easy decorations (like balloons and streamers) to make it seem like a real party and toast to the new friends and adventures to come.

• Host a back-to-school fashion show: Let your children show off their new school outfits, shoes and accessories with a family back-to-school fashion show.

Set up a runway in the living room and let children take turns strutting their stuff on the catwalk. It’s a great way to make sure everything you bought fits each child correctly, and the show gives you a great photo opportunity.

• Create a back-to-school binder: Let your children get involved in decorating a special binder that can hold their school memories (like art projects and report cards) throughout the year. You’ll give yourself a pat on the back later in the year for getting this done in August.

• School supply scavenger hunt: A back-to-school scavenger hunt in search of new school supplies can add a sense to adventure to the ho-hum chore of purchasing the supplies.

• A celebratory breakfast: Make the first meal of the day as special as it is important by putting candles (one for each grade level) in a breakfast food and singing “Happy Back to School” to the tune of “Happy Birthday.”

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545  or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.