Getting the new school year off to a good start can influence a child’s attitude, confidence and performance both socially and academically. The transition to school can be difficult for both children and parents. Even children who are eager to start school may need to make adjustments as they start the new year. The amount of adjustment is really dependent on the child, but parents can help their children manage the back-to-school transition by making the first day easier.
Here are a few ideas to help ease the transition back to school and promote a year full of successful school experiences:
Make sure that your child is physically healthy and ready to learn.
To start the year off right, make sure that your child is in good physical and mental health. Schedule doctor and dental checkups early so that you know your child is ready to begin school with a foundation of well being. Discuss any concerns you have over your child’s emotional or psychological development with your pediatrician. Your doctor can help determine if your concerns are normal, age-appropriate issues or require further assessment. Your child will benefit if you can identify and begin addressing a potential issue before school starts.
Routines are essential
Plan to establish or re-establish bedtime and mealtime routines at least one 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 overtired and being ready to have a great time at school. Bedtime reading is a great routine to start during the summer and to sustain as the school year begins.
Parents: Do your homework.
You may have received information this summer from your child’s school. Make sure to review any material sent by the school as soon as it arrives. These packets may include important information about your child’s teacher, room number, school supply requirements, school calendar dates, bus transportation, health and emergency forms and volunteer opportunities within the school.
Visit school with your child.
Visiting the school with your child can help your child feel at ease with the upcoming school transition. Meeting the teacher, locating the classroom, lunchroom, etc., will help ease back to school worries and will also allow your child to ask questions about the new environment. Call ahead to your child’s school to identify what the system is for back-to-school campus visits. Parents can make note of important back-to-school dates, especially orientation events. This is particularly important if you have children in more than one school and need to juggle obligations.
Maintain a positive perspective.
If your child is anxious about school, send personal notes in the lunch box or backpack. Reinforce your child’s ability to cope with back-to-school transition. Be a model of optimism for your children so that they will emulate your confidence.
Plan to volunteer in the classroom.
Some parents can volunteer regularly and others less periodically throughout the year. Doing so helps your child understand that school and family life are linked and that you care about the learning experiences happening at school. Being in the classroom is also a good way to develop a relationship with your child’s teachers and classmates, and to get firsthand exposure to the classroom environment and routine. Teachers welcome parent help and involvement.
Mindy Zapata, M.Ed., is the director of Head Start and Early Head Start programs at Southwest Human Development, Arizona’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to early childhood development. Founded in 1981, Southwest Human Development has long been recognized as a leader in providing comprehensive services in the areas of child health and development, Easter Seals disabilities services, education and early literacy, and training for early childhood professionals. For more information, please visit www.swhd.org.