The first weeks of school are a time of change and stress for families. Children are faced with unfamiliar work and the expectations of a new teacher. Friends may find themselves in separate classrooms as new children are introduced to the classroom mix. Some children will attend a new school entirely, often one in which they are the youngest students. Parents suffer these changes alongside their children, and everyone must adjust to the routine imposed by the school’s schedule.
The keys to a successful school year are planning and organization during the early weeks. Your actions now can ease the back-to-school transition and lay the groundwork for a successful academic year.
Follow these steps to start the school year as smoothly as possible. The time you invest now will pay benefits all year long.
1. Attend ‘Back-to-School’ night. If your school offers an evening for parents to visit classrooms early in the year, be sure to attend it. Usually held during the first weeks of school, these events allow parents to visit classrooms, meet teachers and learn about the educational activities planned for the year.
2. Request a Parent-Teacher conference. This is your chance to meet one-on-one with the teacher and learn more about their expectations for your child. Use this opportunity to share information about your child. Perhaps your child pays better attention when seated in the front row or needs encouragement to speak in front of the class. The sooner the teacher knows these things, the sooner they can make the necessary adjustments to help your child.
3. Plan to be a partner in education. Make sure your child and their teacher know you want to be involved in the educational process. Volunteer and/or visit at school if possible. Even a few hours will give you new insights into your child’s experience. The best school outcomes result from partnerships between home, student and school.
4. Establish a routine for homework. Establish a time and place for your child to do homework, well in advance of bedtime. Follow up if they need reminders or assistance. Schedule homework for a time when neither of you is distracted by other things.
5. Set up a system to process school forms. Put out a box or basket into which your children can place school forms requiring your attention as soon as they arrive home. Attend to these forms promptly, and return the ones that require your signature.
6. Use a morning routine that starts the night before. Preparation is especially important the first few weeks of school, when getting out of the house on time is most often a challenge. Make lunches or provide lunch money before bed. Have children put books, homework and required forms in backpacks. Set out clothes for the morning. Make sure everyone gets enough sleep, and plan a simple breakfast.
7. Be flexible and understanding. Accept that this is a time of adjustment and that some snags are inevitable. A sense of humor and lots of hugs will help you and your children adjust more quickly.
Your family can enjoy a smooth transition to the new school year. Start now by following the seven steps above. You will soon be on your way to a better year for you and your children.
Sharon Nolfi, M.A., MFT, school psychologist, is the mother of two children. Her articles have been published across Canada and the US.
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