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Ready, set — go back to school: Islanders swing into the academic year

No, is it really time to get the kids ready for school?

Yes. School starts on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

For some parents of school-age children, the marking of the end of summer and the beginning of the school year has come way too fast. Most cope well, but it still can be a whirlwind of planning, shopping and shifting gears from daily routines of summer to fall.

It can also be a bittersweet time, as students enter final years of high school or are just beginning their college years.

Susan and Tom Cronin are checking most of the boxes, with son Pacey, 18, settling in for his first year at the Core of Cadets at Texas A&M University in College Station, Tex.; Nathan, 15, entering 10th grade at Shelter Island School; Makayla, 12, starting 7th grade; and Bella, 8, going into the 3rd grade.

The transition for Pacey to Texas wasn’t difficult, Ms. Cronin said, because “he’s very self-sufficient,” and shopping was a breeze because the college provided one-stop online shopping “from sheets to everything else.”

Mike Dunning and Patty Quigley are getting ready to send their youngest, Baz, into his senior year at Shelter Island High School. “It really hasn’t hit me yet,” Ms. Quigley said about her feelings as Baz hits a milestone. She and Mike had recently seen their older boy, Lucas, back to Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

“I’m excited for Baz,” Ms. Quigley said, especially since he’ll have a more “normal senior year than Lucas,” who spent his final year in high school during the height of the pandemic, when numerous restrictions on students and activities were in play.

After working all summer at South Ferry, Baz is ready to go back to school, Ms. Quigley said, and she’s happy for him.

Getting the kids outfitted and supplied can be a late-summer shock to the pocketbook for most parents, but spending will be about the same as last year in the United States, with American parents shelling out $36.9 billion, or 0.5% less than 2021, according to the National Retail Federation.

At the Cronin household, shopping for Nathan was not much of a chore or an expense, Ms. Cronin said. “He’s a minimalist. All he said he wanted were accordion folders and a pair of sneakers.”

Asked if Nathan was excited to be going back, Ms. Cronin said, perhaps diplomatically, “He doesn’t care for school, but is ready to go. He had a wonderful summer, working at Gardiner’s Bay Country Club and playing one of the porters in the Historical Society’s play, ‘The Prospect of Summer.’”

For their two girls, it’s a different story. Makayla and Bella like school, and are definitely not minimalist when it comes to their wardrobe. Makayla has a new backpack with a matching lunchbox. There are also new sneakers, Ms Cronin said, for gym and new “fashion” sneakers — white and pink Nike Air Force 1. Extra school supplies for tween and teen girls these days include locker accessories — locker wallpaper, fancy hooks, mini-fake plants, pretty magnets, locker fuzzy carpets, mirrors — of course — and a mini-battery-operated chandelier,” Ms. Cronin said, adding with a smile, “I’m pretty sure Makayla’s locker will include a picture of Tom Holland.”

Bella is looking forward to 3rd grade. Part of a new outfit for her includes new sneakers that “look like glittery combat boots to me,” Ms. Cronin said.

But it’s not just new clothes, sneakers and decorating a locker that has most children and adults ready to change their lives with the calendar, School Nurse Mary Kanarvogel said. “Everyone needs and likes to have structure in their lives,” she added, and school gives everyone a new sense of purpose and a place and time to achieve that.

“I’m excited,” Ms. Kanarvogel said. “I’m in school all summer and there are no kids, so it will be great to see them.”

She also noted that as the pandemic has lessened, many restrictions have been eliminated or scaled back, which will make the 2022-2023 academic year freer, and less stressful than past years.

Tips for parents to get kids ready for school: By Danielle Spears, Shelter Island School Psychologist

A kindergarten class. (Credit: JoAnn Kirkland)

Pre K, Kindergarten, 1st grade

• Allow children to tour the school and classroom before school starts. While touring, point out fun items that the student will be able to utilize.

• Allow the student to mingle with their peers so they recognize faces on the first day.

• Develop a routine with the student. The night before, as a team, pack everything in their backpack, get together lunch/snack items, and choose an outfit to wear.

• If the student is feeling uneasy, tell him/her it’s normal to be nervous and the other kids are feeling the same way. You can share a story about how nervous you were on your first day of kindergarten.

• Point out the positive aspects of starting school, like how it will be fun making new friends and learning new things.

Transitioning to different grades

• Talk about transitioning into a new grade in a positive way. A parent’s enthusiasm and support can help a child’s school life in a positive way.

• Help your student stay organized (e.g. utilize planner, use binders/folders, prepare for the day/week ahead of time).

• Encourage your student to get involved in school activities.

• Talk about social skills such as traits that make a good friend, and discuss how words and actions can affect other people.

• Encourage/help your student to be his or her own advocate. Encourage your child to discuss problems and solutions with teachers/support staff on their own, but be ready to help as needed.

Practical methods for parents

• Don’t allow your student to avoid things because it makes him/her anxious. Allowing the student to avoid the situation only helps short term and reinforces the anxiety over the long run.

• Express positive but realistic expectations. For example, a parent can’t promise the student that he/she is never going to fail a test, but a parent can express confidence that the student is going to be O.K. and they will be able to manage it. When an individual faces one’s fears, the intensity of the anxiety will decrease overtime.

• Try to model healthy ways of handling anxiety (e.g., belly breathing, positive visualizations, squeeze stress ball, etc.)

• Explain to the student that there are adults in the building who will help him/her navigate worries and provide support.