Alright Folks and Folkettes, back to school is upon us…before you panic, I want you to take a deep breath. Ok Take another one and hold it for ten seconds then slowly release. Now we know its stressful being a parent and the more children you have the more stressful this time of year can be. What with tuition, clothes, shoes, extracurricular activities, reluctant and willful kids dreading a return or the first day of school, there can seem to be no end to the bills, anxiety, emotional meltdowns and raw fear. So I’ve put together a few tips that can help you to ease the transition. Planning in this case really will serve you better than panic.
1. Review all of the information from your child’s school: Ask for and review the material sent by the school as soon as it arrives. If the school does not send out packets please ensure that you ask about important information about your child’s teacher, classroom number and location, school supply requirements, dates and times for after-school sports and activities, school calendar dates, bus transportation, health and emergency forms, and volunteer opportunities. Make note of this information in a place you can readily see.
2. Make copies of important documents for the school: This includes copies of your child’s health and emergency information; also be sure to let the teacher have your cell number and email and let them know that they can feel free to keep you updated on your child’s progress.
3. Buy school supplies early: Try to get the supplies as early as possible at least week or two before school starts. Older children can help do this, but make sure they use a checklist that you can review. No they don’t need the newest laptop, or PDA, or cellphone. Research shows low tech gets better results anyway. Why? It’s all about the teaching.
4. VERY IMPORTANT: Plan to re-establish the bedtime and mealtime routines (especially breakfast) at least 1 week before school starts. Prepare your child for this change by talking with your child about the benefits of school routines in terms of not becoming over tired or overwhelmed by school work and activities. Include pre-bedtime reading and household chores if these were suspended during the summer. The last thing you want are meltdowns and cranky kids on that September morning.
5. Turn off the TV:WHAAAATT??? No seriously, encourage your child to play quiet games, do puzzles, flash cards, color, or read as early morning activities instead of watching television. This will help ease your child into the learning process and school routine. If possible, maintain this practice throughout the school year. Television is distracting for many children, and your child will arrive at school better prepared to learn each morning if he or she has engaged in less passive activities. Also, If your family is the kind of family that has strict rules about TV watching during the term (such as no TV during the week), the week before school starts would be a good time to school your children to this and other school-time rules.
6. Visit school with your child: If your child is young or in a new school, visit the school with your child. Meeting the teacher, locating their classroom, locker, lunchroom, etc., will help ease pre-school anxieties and also allow your child to ask questions about the new environment. Call ahead to make sure the teachers will be available to introduce themselves to your child. It will also help to ease first day anxiety. If you already sent your child to summer school at the new school then you are a WINNER and waaaay ahead of the game.
7. Designate and clear a place to do homework: Older children should have the option of studying in their room or a quiet area of the house. Younger children usually need an area set aside in the family room or kitchen to facilitate adult monitoring, supervision, and encouragement. This space should be free of toys, DS games, Television and music and should be able to accommodate a seat for you and your child in case your help is needed for more than a few seconds. Designate time and space in your mind as well to supervise your child during homework. Make sure that space has a lot of patience as well. Screaming at a child who is having difficulty spelling does far more harm than good. Some parents have already started to supervise their children in reading and math skills to re-acquaint them to learning techniques and abilities.
8. Get to know people: Take this opportunity as a time to make new friends, meet neighbors or people in the community, especially with the parents of your child’s classmates. You build camaraderie, bonds and life savers. Friends who have children in your child’s class can help you in a pinch, such as pick up or emergency information. Not to mention built in play date partners or snap group parenting sessions!
9. Empathize with your children: Change can be difficult, but also exciting so let your children know that you are aware of what they’re going through and that you will be there to help them in the process. Nerves are normal, but highlight that not everything that is different is necessarily bad. It is important to encourage your children to face their fears instead of falling in to the trap of encouraging avoidance.
10. Know when to Let GO! On that first day, please make parting a sweet sorrow by reassuring your child, giving a quick hug and turning on your heels as you beat a hasty retreat. Do not linger, or allow your child to see how emotional you are becoming and whatever you do don’t CRY. Keep it for the car, bus or walk home. Pretend to be brave if you must, they will be fine. But if they see your anxiety and emotion it will be like throwing gas on an open fire. The transition is hard, don’t make it any harder.
11. Less is more: please don’t go overboard on the extra-curricular activities. Your child needs to choose two activities tops that really interests them. It would be great if one of them were music. Too many activities can stress your child’s coping abilities and your pocket, not to mention your transport traipsing up and down to these activities.
Good luck and RELAX there is seriously very little that can go wrong and if it does it has a simple solution.