School bells will soon ring once again. Whether that comes as music to your ears or a bittersweet reminder that the free-spirited summer days are over, check out these tips from the pros to help you and your children enjoy a smart, happy start to school.
1. Push the reset button. A week or two before school starts, ease back to regular bedtime and morning routines. If they’ve slacked off during the summer, nudge your kids back into the habit of daily reading and playing math games for a good review.“Think about re-setting structure at home and what changes need to happen so it’s not a total shock to everyone’s system,” says Christine Vohs, a second-grade teacher. “Anything that you can create that allows for structure and your child’s ownership for success is going to send them to me in a better frame of mind to learn for the day.”
Plan ahead for hectic mornings by gathering healthy, simple-to-prepare breakfast ideas packed with nutrients and protein. Wall calendars with activities color-coded for each family member and daily checklists for each child can help establish expectations and keep your family organized.
2. Build anticipation. Got a youngster who’s bummed to head back to school? Stay upbeat. Remind them of the subjects that spark their curiosity that they’ll learn about in the coming year - whether that’s cursive writing, multiplication, or a special grade-level project.“Talk to your children about friends they haven’t seen all summer and about new kids joining their class,” says first-grade teacher Megan Jasperson. “This is sure to get them excited for the school year to begin.”
3. Offer encouragement and support. Remind your kids that it’s normal to feel disappointed about summer break ending, but you’re excited to see how much they’ll learn and grow during the coming months.
4. Be prepared. Peruse school supply lists carefully and read the handouts the school issues to ensure your youngster has everything they need on the first day of school.“Kids feel embarrassed on the first day when they aren’t prepared,” says Jasperson.
5. Reduce uncertainty. Often, kids feel nervous about unknowns like transitioning to a teacher they don’t know, a new school, or a different set of classroom rules. Take advantage of any back-to-school or orientation events that your school offers to help your apprehensive scholar familiarize themselves with the classroom, meet classmates, and connect with the teacher before school starts. Knowing what to expect and where to go on the first day of school will ease some of a child’s anxieties.
6. Seek out friendly faces. If you’ve recently moved to a new community or switched schools, look for other families with children your child’s age to arrange a playdate or to meet for frozen yogurt before the school bell rings. Some schools also feature parent Facebook pages. Hop on and ask if anyone would like to get together at the park before school begins. Many parents love to help welcome new families, and these efforts will lessen first-day jitters when your youngster knows they’ll recognize a few familiar faces when they get there.
Have an adolescent heading into junior high?
Encourage them to join after-school clubs and activities. Their involvement will help them form connections with peers who share their interests, says Traci Keeler, a sixth-grade math teacher and eighth-grade volleyball and track coach.
7. Create a homework spot. Designate an area in your home that’s conducive to focus and concentration and where you can easily jump in to help, when necessary. While purchasing school supplies, also stock a homework caddy or station with scratch paper, pens, pencils, erasers, markers, highlighters, and anything else that each child will need to complete their homework.
8. Build partnerships. Maintaining open communication and partnering with your students’ teachers is key to a successful school year.“You know your child best and your insights into your child are helpful to us,” says Vohs.
Introduce yourself to the teacher and tell them the best ways they can contact you. In turn, remember that teachers care about their students’ best interests. Vohs speaks for many of her colleagues when she says, “I hope parents will trust me to make the best possible decisions for their child while they are with me.”
9. Get involved. Help your children start seeing school as an extension of their home life by volunteering periodically. Most kids get a kick out of seeing their parents during the school day, whether they volunteer in the cafeteria, library, or the classroom. Unable to volunteer at school? Ask the teacher what you can do to help from home.
Freelance journalist Christa always loved the back-to-school season as a child and still does. Her two boys don’t share her enthusiasm. Christa is the author of Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital Word.
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