Back to School: Preparing Your Child for the Classroom
It’s back to school season; a time parents celebrate and kids, well, don’t. Perhaps your son or daughter will be much more excited about going back to school this year with the right encouragement from you. Allowing your son or daughter to be a little bit more independent when it comes to preparing for the school year and encouraging extracurricular activity are all ways to make sure your child doesn’t dread waking up after the summer is over. If you’re having a hard time getting your child motivated about returning to the classroom, here are some suggestions that will help:
Preschool and Elementary School-aged Children
If your child is beginning preschool, you’ll want to be extra sensitive regarding this very important transition. At least two weeks before preschool starts, talk to your child about going to school, and ask what they will like about being a student. It’s also a good idea to practice being away from your child for hours at a time, so that he or she will get used to not being around you throughout the whole day.
If you can find books or videos about the first day of school at your local library or bookstores, take a few of these home to read to your child, so that he or she will get used to the idea that ‘big boys and girls’ go to school, and that starting school is definitely a good thing. Reading to your child about the first day of school will also let them know that it is all right to be afraid or nervous, but school is necessary for learning, and will even help them to make new friends. You should also go shopping with your preschooler to purchase supplies that he or she will need for school and home. For instance, if you’re buying crayons or paint for school, purchase a smaller box of crayons at home, so that your child can practice coloring and drawing at home. This will get your preschooler used to the idea of homework, so the concept won’t be so foreign when he or she reaches elementary school.
On the first day of preschool, make sure that you can take your child to school yourself, and let him or her get used to the environment before you leave. You may not be able to do this every day, but try to be in your child’s classroom to say goodbye in the morning for at least a week or so, until he or she gets used to this major change in their day.
For elementary school students, especially those entering kindergarten, it’s important to talk about the way your son or daughter has grown in the past year, and to ask what they’ll want to get out of school in the coming year. If you can, speak to the principal of your child’s school during the summer, so that you can get an idea of exactly what your child needs to know before the coming school year. Take about an hour each day to review familiar academic concepts to your child, and slowly introduce new learning tools during the summer, so that your son or daughter won’t be so overwhelmed in the classroom.
When you’re ready to go shopping for the first day of school, take some of your child’s clothes from the closet to see what still fits. This will not only help you to decide how many new outfits you need to buy, but it will help your child to see how much he or she has grown. If your child has to wear a uniform to school, check with local retailers in your area to see which stores are offering discounts. And, let your child be involved in shopping for school clothes as well; let them choose their favorite colors or styles as much as possible, so that they will wear their clothes with confidence and feel more comfortable about starting school.
You’ll also want to take your child to the doctor before school starts for an exam. If your child has to take medication regularly, make sure that he or she knows the time of the dosages, in case they have to visit the school nurse during the day. You can also make sure that your child is feeling good about going back to school by taking time to have a discussion with your son or daughter about their feelings about returning to school. Make sure that your child is comfortable expressing fear or anxiety about going back to school, and be sensitive to their concerns.
About a week or so before school starts, you should get your child back into ‘student mode’. Bedtime should be adjusted to the time your child usually goes to sleep during the school year. All forms that need to be turned in to the school should be signed and returned before the first day of school. You should also take your son or daughter to the new classroom to meet the teacher a couple of days before the first day of school, so that he or she will already be used to the room and can get a first impression of the teacher before school starts. If your child’s school has an open house before the first day, make sure that you make time to go, especially if this is your child’s first year in the school.
The day before school, help your child pick out an outfit for the first day, and as much as possible, make his or her lunch the night before. Let your child perform these tasks for the most part, and step in when you need to. This will help your son or daughter to learn independence, as well as instill the confidence that is needed to make the most of school. If you can, take your son or daughter to school yourself on the first day, and be sure to leave promptly when the bell rings after a cheerful goodbye.
Middle and High School Students
By this time, your child may be a little more excited about going back to school, since friendships have been established, and school is an outlet for a child to express independence. Now is the time in your child’s life where you’ll have to grant more privileges and freedom, so use your best judgment when helping your child to choose after school activities and social events to attend during the school year. Letting your son or daughter do his or her own school shopping this year is a great way to show them that you trust their judgment and have confidence in their decisions.
Even though your child may be a little older, you should still make time to discuss his or her concerns about returning to school. Although your child is definitely used to going to school at this point and have established friendships at school, the middle and high school years can be a very awkward time. Your son or daughter may still be desperately searching for social acceptance, or may be unsure about his or her talents and abilities, and you need to be aware of this before the school year begins. Even though your child may rely heavily on the suggestions of friends during this time in their lives, your feedback still matters very much. Your son or daughter still needs your encouragement and advice, so make sure that your child knows that you are available to talk anytime during the school year, not just before the first day.
To keep your child focused on his or her studies throughout the year, make sure that there is a quiet, well-lit place in the house that can be designated for homework. You should also make sure that your computer is equipped to download certain software that your kids will need to complete school assignments. Set up a schedule with your son or daughter to determine daily homework time, so that they will stay organized throughout the year.
The morning of the first day of school, try to get up a little early to make a special breakfast for your son or daughter. Handle any last-minute tasks before seeing them off for the day, and make sure that you tell your son or daughter where you’ll be all day so they’ll know how to reach you. You may not need to drop your son or daughter off at school yourself (since they may die of embarrassment), so send your child off with a word of encouragement and a big hug-they’ll never be too big for that.