As summer starts to wind down and school supplies fill the shelves of stores, children may display a range of emotions about the upcoming school year. While many children are excited to find out who their teacher is and progress to the next grade level, most children feel some anxiety when it comes to starting a new grade. A new school year is a perfect time to alter some routines to create a more successful and less stressful experience for both parents and children.
Prepare: Involve your children in “Back to School” preparations. Print out the supply list and attach to a clipboard. As you search for supplies in your favorite store, have your child check off each school necessity. Let your child count the folders, choose their notebooks and pick out a new lunchbox for the year. At home, let them label each item and organize what supplies they will bring on the first day.
Set Goals: Several weeks before school starts, discuss the new school year with your children. Review expectations for both behaviors and school work and set some new academic goals with your child. Jot down the goals and store in a file so you can revisit them at the end of the year. Take a peek at the state learning objectives for each grade level or visit GreatSchools.org for an easy to read list of what students will learn in each grade level. Help build excitement about the upcoming school year by focusing on how much your children will learn that year.
Create routines: The start of the school year requires some routine and structure to ensure children are prepared and ready to conquer each school day. Create a visual schedule for younger children or a timeline for older children so they stay on track each morning. Include daily routines such as breakfast and brushing teeth along with what time they need to leave the house each day. If your child benefits from some down time before the school day, include time to watch a show or play with toys after breakfast. Some children simply need more time in the mornings, so set the alarm 15 minutes early to reduce the rush and have a more relaxing morning. When possible, pack all lunches and backpacks the night before so everything is ready to go each school day.
Afternoons present different challenges as your kids may play sports or participate in various after school activities. Each Sunday, plan the week on a white board calendar. Your children need to know what activities they have that week so together you can plan a time for homework, reading and studying each afternoon. Include homework time on the weekly calendar so there is no argument about when school tasks must be completed each week. Equally important, create a quiet homework zone, free from distractions such as TV or younger children playing loudly. The homework zone should be an organized, clutter-free space where children can focus on their work without frequent interruptions.
Network: Once you find out your child’s teacher, network with other parents whose children are in the same class. Plan a few play dates or an entire class event at a local park! Call an ice cream truck to swing by, and you have a perfect meet and greet for your child and his or her new school friends. When children enter school knowing a few friends in their class, they are far less worried about making friends the first day and can anticipate some friendly faces as they walk into their new classrooms.
First Day: The first day of school is a pretty important event in the eyes of a child. By all means, snap a few pictures and plan a special breakfast. However, start your routines on day 1. If your child is going to aftercare all year or riding the bus home each day, don’t pick them up in your car on the first day. Maintain the same routines throughout the year. Your child needs time to learn and adjust to a new school year without many changes. Finally, keep your goodbyes brief! Don’t linger and give excessive hugs or wave from behind the glass doorways. There will be plenty of time for hugs after school! A quick getaway ensures your child starts his or her day on time and reduces unnecessary anxiety.
Bonus Tips from Teachers: Label all supplies with your child’s name. Be sure your child knows exactly how he or she is going home on the first day. Don’t linger in the classroom as teachers are excited and ready to start the day too! Always feel free to send in more supplies for the class, especially pencils, glue sticks and tissues as those are typically the first supplies to be depleted. If your child has unique learning needs, severe allergies, anxieties or issues the teacher should know, email the new teacher before the first day of school so that he or she can be prepared to best meet the needs of your child. Send a short note or sweet treat for the teacher on the first day to wish them a great school year!
The first day of school is the start of something great! Chat with your children about any worries before the day arrives and focus on the positives of a new school year. Prepare, set routines and goals, and meet up with some friends before the first day to help your children have the best school year possible!