With the countdown to school upon us, it’s time to get some tips to navigate a successful school year for first-time and seasoned parents of school-aged children.
Here are some practical tips for a successful start to the school year:
Establish or re-establish your school year routine before school starts
Summer days bring longer days, and maybe your kids haven’t had to get up for anything scheduled, so bedtimes may be all out of whack. By starting to implement regular (and perhaps earlier) bedtimes, you can help prepare your child for the more structured routine to come and allow them to return to school well-rested.
Regular mealtimes (and nutritious meals) may also have gone by the wayside during the summer. Adding these back in now will be helpful for when they become necessary when school and extra-curricular activities begin. Perhaps start with implementing a regular breakfast time each day.
You can also help your child get back into the “learning” mode by reducing the amount of TV they watch or other screen time and having them do more “quiet” activities such as reading, puzzles, or art projects.
Set the Tone
A new situation or the residual from negative experiences from the previous year can understandably cause feelings of fear or anxiety in both children and parents. Children can sense and absorb a parent’s stress, so it’s important to keep a positive outlook on heading back to school. If you are enthusiastic and excited, they will be too.
Listening to your kid’s feelings, having conversations, and reassuring their young minds about whatever is worrying them can do wonders.
Remind your kids of all the positive things about school, including some of the cool things they did the year before, friends they made, field trips, and activities that they enjoy.
As bittersweet as these milestones can be for parents, sending your kids off to school is an exciting opportunity for them to learn, grow and develop. (And if you need to, have a good cry after they get on the bus, it’s OK!)
Start your school year right with a visit to the school, even if your child has attended the school before. Most schools offer open houses that enable you and your student to visit the school, meet the teacher, see the classroom, and get acclimated to the new environment.
If your school doesn’t offer an open house, consider dropping by the school and playing on the playground.
Help your student get a sense of their surroundings — reading books about school and talking about school for first-timers can also help ease the transition. These conversations can help your child understand what to expect during the school day.
Clear the calendar for the first week of school
If you work outside of the home, try to keep your work schedule light this first week. Avoid scheduling any trips, extra activities, or late meetings. If you can arrange it, be home after school this first week. Try to keep your kids’ schedules too simple also. The first days back make for a big and tiring week, and it will make it easier if you are physically there to help your child acclimate to this new schedule. They will likely have lots to talk about, so being present to discuss their day and ease any worries can lead to a much more peaceful transition.
It can also be fun to establish a first day of school tradition. Perhaps it’s making cookies the night before or going out to dinner after that first day. Whatever you choose to do, a tradition is something that is comforting and will help make starting school something to look forward to.
Walking the fine line of the right amount of involvement can be tricky, especially as students get older. Most of us don’t want to be helicopter parents, and ALL teachers don’t want to deal with helicopter parents. Strike a balance of involvement without hovering over your child’s every step and piece of homework. Ask your school if you can come to eat lunch occasionally with your child or if they need volunteers for the cafeteria. Be a facilitator or encourager. Try to stay involved by asking your child what they liked best about the day.