For better or worse, summer is coming to a close and the new school year is almost upon us. Here are a few tips to make the transition go smoothly for you and your student.
Be Proactive. Take some time to sit down with your child, perhaps after a family meal, to discuss what the expectations will be for this school year. Ideally, this should be done with age-appropriate input from your child so they feel involved and committed to the process. Consider the previous school year with all of its successes and challenges. What could be done differently this year to address any challenges that may be anticipated? What concerns do you or your child have? Do you have expectations for homework? Do you have expectations for technology use? Do you have expectations for grades? Having this discussion now is helpful because it sets the stage for what’s to come, not a reaction to something that’s already happened. Some families find it helpful to make simple written contracts so there is no disagreement or misunderstanding in the future regarding the parameters or consequences that are mutually agreed upon.
Make a Plan. One of the biggest stressors for students is the change in their routines. Familiarizing your child with their new school schedule is the key to helping them gain confidence and feel secure and in control of the new situation. Take advantage of any school sponsored open houses or meet- the-teacher days. Allow your child to spend time in their new classroom(s), walk their schedule if they are switching between teachers and become as familiar as possible with what they will experience on their first day. Back at home write down a schedule that includes wake up time, bus schedules, homework time, after school activities and bedtime and even when to shower.
Start Now. We all feel better when we are well-rested. Begin implementing earlier bedtimes and wake up times at least a week before the start of school to avoid everyone having a serious case of the crankies and mental fog for the first few weeks back. The sooner you begin the routines of the new school year, the easier the transition will be on everyone.
Let them Shine! This is THEIR school experience and THEY need to feel good about it. Students won’t be able to focus if they feel like they are wearing the “wrong” clothes or shoes or got a bad hair cut or are carrying a “lame” backpack. To the greatest extent possible (and within reason), allow them to have some say and have a sense of control over their school identity. I’m not suggesting that they get everything they want or you spend beyond your budget; however, do try to find ways to let their sense of style shine through.
Keep it Positive. While it’s true that parents may have as many anxieties as kids as they head back to school, we should try our best to keep our concerns from further fueling our children’s angst. Kids pick up on negativity from parents and we know it takes five positive comments to override just one negative comment! Assure your child that it is perfectly normal and that EVERYONE (students, teachers, administrators, bus drivers) is nervous on the first day. If your child does arrive home overwhelmed or unhappy after the first day, listen to their concerns and gently remind them that it takes time to settle into new situations. Give them a big hug and reassure them that it will get better very soon!