The start of the new school year is a magical time.
There are tears of joy, impromptu dances of glee and meet-ups with friends who haven’t been seen all summer.
Enough about the parents, though.
For children, it can mean a drastic change in the routine of the past several months. Starting now on reestablishing a regular schedule is important.
That means cutting back on the late night Overwatch gaming sessions, getting out of bed before the crack of noon and preparing for a blitz of activities that will keep most afternoon and evening schedules jam-packed.
It also means talking to children about any concerns they may have about school and working on guiding them through.
Trepidation is natural, particularly when children are making a major shift in their surroundings — such as attending a new school or going from middle school to junior high or junior high to high school.
Avoid being dismissive of those feelings.
“Let your child know that his nervous or apprehensive feelings about the start of school are normal. All kids (and adults) have a hard time getting back into the routine of the school year. The knowledge that he is not alone in this experience will help your child feel he’s being heard and understood,” Lianna Wilson writes for the Child Mind Institute.
For some children, the transition to another school year can bring worries they don’t feel they can open up about. Let them know you are responsive to what is going on.
Some conversations will take a little prodding. Parents, don’t be afraid to start the exchange.
Ask children what they are feeling, and what their expectations are for the year. Do they feel overwhelmed? Do they feel prepared to meet the academic and social challenges school can bring? Are they scared or anxious?
You might be surprised at some of the answers.
The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh surveyed kids and found that beyond schoolwork concerns — a higher grade means more-advanced lessons — social issues and appearance issues combined for the majority of back-to-school issues. Things like whether they will fit in and make friends weighed heavy on students’ minds.
That might mean leaving the camera at home on the first day of school (nothing draws attention like having the mommarazzi following a child into the school building). It also might mean keeping closer tabs on their social media interactions. Role-playing various situations also can help children learn how to respond to things as they arise.
Above all, Christy Tirrell-Corbin, director of Early Childhood/Early Childhood Special Education at the University of Maryland writes, it’s about making school a family experience.
She says it’s important to establish a realistic schedule for the student and family by doing such things as determining in advance what extracurricular activities interest the child — and limiting them based on the student’s age — and setting up guidelines for when homework will be done each day.
She also reminds parents that teachers can help develop partnerships and it is important to seek their feedback and listen to what they have to say.
A successful and stress-free school year starts at home, before the first bell of the return from summer break ever rings.
Parents, do your “home” work now.
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