Whether your child is leaving for their first day of kindergarten or their first day of college, emotions will be running high for both you and your child these next few weeks. It's often hard to determine who is more nervous for a new school year to start, the parents or the kids. As I approach my eighth year as a Speech Pathologist in the school setting, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on what parents can do to ease the transition of back-to-class.
1) Always speak positively about school. Your child will pick up on your emotions. Stay positive about their teachers, friends, and new experiences. If your child is especially anxious set up a trail run of the day. Walk them through the new experiences of waiting at the bus stop, making a lunch choice, or introducing themselves to a classmate. Practicing these skills may calm their nerves and yours!
2) Attend the back-to-school events. Learn as much as you can about your child's new school. The more comfortable you become with your child's school and it's routines, the more comfortable your child will become.
3) Introduce yourself to teachers and staff that your child will interact with- principals, office staff, teachers, counselors, nurse, therapists, ect. The school's office staff is your lifeline to your child during the day. Treat them with kindness and patience and it will go a LONG way!
4) Set up a routine at home for evening and bedtime. Expect some increased tiredness and crabbiness. It’s also a good idea to set a routine for getting clothing picked out and having the backpack readied each evening. Those things make the mornings much less chaotic.
5) Expect some tears and when they come hold firm. Discuss why they are upset and contact the school's counselor. They are a wonderful resource for these tough first few weeks. All kids experience separation anxiety to an extent. Your reaction to it will either decrease or increase theirs. Try managing it by setting up a drop off plan. Day one walk them to their classroom, day two walk them into the front door, day three walk them to the door but don't go in, and so on to fade to a drop off that works for you.
6) Get excited about their learning. Your kiddo will come home busting at the seams with new knowledge. Ask questions and LISTEN. Make some time to turn off and tune into your child. Five minutes of your undivided attention will mean everything to them.
7) Let them pick out their school supplies. Take them along to the store and let them pick out a few of their favorite things. They will feel proud and prepared for school when they have some ownership of their things. And if you are lucky it may keep that lunchbox out of the lost and found by September!
8) Remember your child will need some down time. Take advantage of those long summer evenings and allow your child to get some fresh air after school. Kiddos need a release and some time to just play. Even just 10-15 minutes of fresh air does a body and brain good.
9) Find healthy snack and meal options. Empty tummy's do not learn well! Make sure to send your little one to school with a full tummy, and have snacks on hand for after school munchies. Also make sure your little one can open their containers in their lunch box. Lunch aides are often on hand but your child will not have much time to eat and open containers. Think easy open and practice at home.
10) Foster their new independence. It will be hard but let them spread their wings. Encourage them to try an after school activity, join a club, or meet up for a play date with new friend. Let them make a mistake on their homework. Mistakes are proof you are learning. Enjoy this new stage of their life and parenting!
I hope these ideas are helpful for you and your family and ease some of the craziness this time of year can bring. Just remember routines take weeks not days to become natural. Give them, and yourselves, a break, and enjoy these days of our lives!