By Michael R. Malone of The Children’s Trust.
Summer is winding to a close, and the morning school bell will soon be ringing. Back to school means transition for the whole family. There’s plenty of excitement — seeing friends again, new teachers, classes and more — but anxiety creeps in for many children. There’s a shift in family schedules from staying up later, sleeping in and a generally more easy-going schedule, at least for children.
A few helpful hits will make your life and your child’s return to school a lot easier, with a greater probability for social and academic success and even fun.
Keep communication lines open and nurture your child before and through the transition back to school, suggest Jeannette Egozi. Her company, Early Childhood Quality Consultants, recently received a starter grant from The Children’s Trust. Egozi offers life-skills workshops for children and parents that teach yoga, meditation, empowerment drumming and clear open-hearted communication to build connection and reduce stress within the family.
“Back to school is an opportunity to bond and spend time together with your child,” says Egozi. “Find some fun in it” As you’re shopping together for school supplies, notice your child’s style. What pens, folders and notebooks do they choose? Pay attention and nurture the experience.
“It’s important for adults in the family to recognize the stress and also the excitement related to the return to school,” she says. Both the parent or caretaker and the child are experiencing the feelings, she adds, but too often there isn’t that open communication — getting the children ready by reminding them of there experience of last year, talking about who their new teacher is going to be and the activities they’ll have.
Start “back to school” weeks before the big day because getting a good start affects attitude, confidence, social and academic performance.
The National Associational of School Psychologists suggests that schedules for supper, bath, bedtime and wake-up time should begin weeks before school starts. The guidelines set in these weeks before school and the building blocks for a successful school year.
Know that despite your best intentions the first day back can be emotional. Minimize anxiety by getting as much ready the night before as possible, then rise with plenty of time, set a nutritious breakfast for your children and encourage them to drink plenty of water during the day.
As you switch gears from summer to school and through all transitions, Egozi invites you to talk with your child in an open-hearted way. “We’re blessed as humans to use words. It’s very important to know how to use them to communicate what’s going on.
“Kids are very pure and very bright. Sometimes we forget that they’re kids, and we have to remember that they’re innocent and young. It’s important to get down to their level and help them embrace their world,” she says.
More tips for a positive back-to-school transition:
Set alarm clocks. Have school-age children set their own alarm clock to get up in the morning. Praise them for prompt response to the morning schedules and bus pickups.
Leave plenty of extra time. Give your child enough time to get up, eat breakfast, and get to school. For very young children taking the bus, pin to their shirt or backpack an index card with pertinent information, including the teacher’s name and bus number as well as your daytime contact information.
After school. Review with your child what to do if he or she gets home after school and you are not there. Be specific, particularly with young children.
Review your child’s schoolbooks. Talk about what your child will be learning during the year. Share your enthusiasm for the subjects and your confidence in your child’s ability to master the content.
Send a brief note to your child’s teacher. Let the teachers know that you are interested in getting regular feedback on how and what your child is doing in school. Find out how they like to communicate with the parents, e.q., through notes, e-mail, or phone calls.
Let your children know you care. Send personal notes in the lunch box or book bag. Model optimism and confidence for your child, and let your child knowthat it is natural to be a little nervous anytime you start something new.
Also visit NASP resources:
Call 305.571.5700 to learn more or visit us at:www.thechildrenstrust.org