Q: I loved Mitch Albom's article in the Parade recently about letting a child be free to do nothing in the summer, not rushing into the school scheduling mode as early as August.
We still have some summer left; we need to enjoy it to the fullest and spend time just being with our kids.
I'm sure you agree, but is there anything else we should do before school starts in a couple of weeks? -- K.I.
A: I totally agree with you and Mitch on spending time to just be, and not rush into the pressure of scheduling and achievement goals of all sorts, many of which are not even age-appropriate for youngest children.
When we spend time to just enjoy the simple things with our kids, we're creating a bond that will help them feel strong and safe, and a lifelong friendship that will really count in later years.
We are making them feel both lovable and capable, we are letting them know they can count on us and can tell us anything.
These are the things that will help them most in forming good friendships, in working on achievement goals and in protecting them against bullying and negative peer pressure.
It's not going to be the clothes they wear or the electronic gadgets they take to school that are going to get them through the tough times; it will be your parent-child relationship that helps most.
You're the touchstone. They need to know you'll be there and will listen and care.
Just a couple of reminders: As you start thinking through plans for school, don't overschedule your kids with too many extra activities.
Focus on your child's talents and needs. Choose only one or two activities that your child, not you, values most.
Start NOW to move up the bedtime for children. Just move it up 30 minutes or so a day.
Sure, it's hard to do, since we love and are used to the long evenings, but you need to plan ahead based on the time your child needs to get up for school and the fact that he/she needs eight or more hours of sleep.
A huge percent of today's children and teens are suffering from sleep deprivation, partly because they are overscheduled.
Loss of sleep damages brain cells. Google this topic; it should help motivate you.
Last but not least, if your child will ride a school bus for the first time, call and schedule a visit to the bus garage so they can see the bus and learn how to get in and out safely.
If your child's in a new school, go together to see the classrooms, lunchroom, bathrooms and playground.
Keep in mind that good hygiene, nutritious meals and enough sleep are all musts for school children.
And it won't hurt to stress the need to wash hands with soap as often as possible to prevent germs and illness.
Evelyn Petersen is an award-winning parenting columnist and early childhood educator and author who lives in Traverse City; see her website at askevelyn.com.