The Parent Classroom Newsletter > Ten Tips For Back to School Success
Ten Tips For Back to School Success

Aug 29, 2009

For children, September is a time of huge transition. They are starting a new grade, possibly a new school, meeting a new teacher, learning new classroom rules. They may not be with a certain friend. They will be introduced to more rigorous academic demands and more challenging behavioral expectations. It takes a great deal of focus and self-control to manage all that, and they become anxious and stressed.

Whatever stage your children are in--starting a new school, or returning to preschool, elementary, or middle school--here are 10 tips that will help you have a smooth transition and enjoy back-to-school success:

1. Begin to gradually re-set to a school year schedule. Begin bedtime at a more reasonable hour and get up a bit earlier each day. You can adjust this little by little as a way of acclimating yourself and your kids.

2. Take children with you when you shop for their new lunch bags, backpacks, school supplies, shoes or clothes. Doing this with them helps them own the experience of returning to school. Do this the week before and not at the last minute, so that they can savor the anticipation.

3. If you can, visit the school ahead of time. Visit the playground, the classrooms, and the teachers if possible. Preschools and kindergartens generally have some sort of welcome process in place as a way of beginning. Make sure that your children know their way around the facility. Find out school schedules so you can prepare children. Find out the teacher?s policy on homework.

4. If your child is starting a new school for the first time, be positive and encouraging -- but don't go overboard. It is normal for children to feel nervous about this new experience, and better for them to feel mixed emotions than have overblown expectations.

5. Create a homework station before school starts. It is usually best to set this up in a public space, such as the kitchen or dining room, where you can monitor children and be present to support and help them when needed. Decide on the best time for your child to do homework and do it at that time each day, so it becomes routine. Make a homework basket with all the things you need: pencils, erasers, markers, scissors?so all that is readily available each time you need it.

6. Think through and create some morning strategies. Mornings, when everyone is on a deadline and rushing to get out of the house, are some of the worst times for families. Come up with a routine that works for you. Use the more relaxed pace of the night before to make lunches, pick out clothes, get backpacks ready to go and by the door, with homework inside along with other necessary items. Plan on having kids dressed and ready to go before you eat breakfast. For dawdlers, set a timer and make a check list of all the things they need to do by the time the timer goes off.

7. Get yourself organized. Schools often give you a myriad of papers to check off and sign. Make a place for all this stuff, be it a folder or a file system, or even a drawer devoted to school flyers and forms. You will find it a wonderful help to have this in one place.

8. For children who are exhibiting any negative feelings about the beginning of school, consider this great tool: making a book about it. The purpose of the book is to convey to children that new beginnings are often both exciting and fearful. Have your child write down or dictate to you what he knows about his new classroom, what makes him excited, what makes him worried, and what he can do when he is feeling worried. List other times that he has felt nervous about doing something for the first time, and it turned out okay. You can include photos or his drawings.

9. Create an end of summer ritual. We all need rituals to help us deal with transitions. Rituals take an ordinary experience and elevate it to something special. Think of a ritual that signals the end of summer. You could have one last trip to the beach or amusement park and say goodbye to summer vacation. You could have a special dinner or barbecue and have each family member list all the things that they enjoyed doing this summer--and then list what you are looking forward to in the new school year. You could make wishes for the next school year, and put them in a special place to be saved. You could make a scrapbook of all the things you did during the summer.

10. If your child has a bad start -- take heart! Transitions can be bumpy and always involve a degree of loss. It can take time to get through that loss and begin to attach to a new classroom and teacher. Listen to the complaints and empathize, validate your child's experience, but also hold this as normal and something that will get better in time. Beware of falling into the trap of blaming the teacher and the school or asking questions that convey the message that your child is having a hard time ("Was the teacher nice to you today"?) Your child will be loyal to you, so if you are unhappy with the school or teacher, she will be unhappy, too. Instead, keep a journal of the complaints, letting your child know that once you write them down she can let them go. Act as if: she will adjust. She will be okay. She has resources to learn this task.

Jill Shugart, M.A., MFT - 910 Tulare Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707 - 510-528-0309 -
Ca. Lic.#MFT32528



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