Tips For Starting the School Year Off Right Without Losing Your Sanity

back to school tips pic
Tips For Starting the School Year Off Right Without Losing Your Sanity
By: Kelly Woodard

The 2014-15 school year is fast approaching, and things will soon be changing for the little ones in our lives. Change may be good, but it’s not necessarily easy. Switching from the laid-back fun in the sun of summer to rules, homework, and routines can be a big jump for parents and children alike. But with a little preparation and the right attitude, it doesn’t have to be so hard.
It’s normal for a child to have a little flutter of anxiety about going back to school. After all, they’re getting themselves ready for a lot of newness: a teacher, classmates, tasks, and challenges.
Students may have trouble sleeping at the start of the school year, but that’s nothing to worry about. More uncomfortable symptoms might include continued trouble sleeping, decreased appetite, or irritability. Severe cases can involve tears, tantrums, and even refusing to go to school.
Pensacola native Tina Jeffries son Jacob, was one of those severe cases. Every year from kindergarten through 2nd grade, he struggled with separating at back-to-school time. In the morning, tears would start flowing. He would often cling to his mom and refuse to go to school, including not boarding the bus. “As much as my heart was breaking for him, I had to put on a strong front and say ‘I know you can do it. I’m not worried about you at all. You’re going to have a great day,’” said Jeffries.
Jeffries said she used a lot of strategies with Jacob, including role-playing school with stuffed animals, driving the bus route, riding on the practice bus provided by the school district, and visiting the playground and the classroom before the first day of school. They also practiced a farewell where Jeffries would say “See you later, alligator.” Jacob would reply with “After a while, crocodile,” and know to break from his mom and get on the bus. The more he practiced, the easier it got, and the anxiety he felt was soon behind him.
A parent’s attitude has a strong influence on how children view the beginning of school, says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a clinical psychologist and coauthor of Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential. Children pick up on their parents’ feelings, react to them, and often magnify them. “You have to have faith that they’ll be able to get through [changes], even if it’s hard. It’s a powerful message to give kids,” she says. “We don’t want to dismiss their feelings, but we do want to normalize them and say ‘Everyone feels a little nervous going into the classroom, but I really think you’re going to be fine.’”
Establishing daily routines at home at the start of the school year (or even before) can also help children adjust. Doing this directly benefits their work in the classroom, where their day is full of routines. Here are some tips to help parents establish routines and become better involved in their children’s day to day school activities.
1. Get Involved. Ask your children what they studied in class today — what they liked and what they learned. Asking questions shows that school is important.
2. Quiet Study. Choose a place for home study and make sure the room is quiet during that time. Creating a quiet place goes a long way toward helping your children learn.
3. Homework Schedules. Set up a certain time of day that is dedicated to homework. Follow up with your children to be sure their homework is complete and turned in on time.
4. Learn Together. If you want your children to read their assignments, give yourself an assignment, too. When it's time for them to do homework, take a break and spend a few minutes reading a book, magazine or newspaper.
5. Learn Everywhere. Increase your children's interest in homework by connecting school to everyday life. For instance, your children can learn fractions and measurements while you prepare favorite foods together.
6. Meet Their Teachers. Meet with your children's teachers to find out what they are learning and discuss their progress in school.
7. Praise Helps. Praise your children for successfully completing homework. Nothing encourages children more than praise from their parents
Spending time just hanging out with your children before the start of the school year helps with transition. A parent’s simple presence is comforting and soothing to children and gives them the opportunity to talk if they want to.
Once school starts, of course parents want to hear all about it, but it’s important to follow your child’s lead. Some children are chatty and want to discuss every detail. Others will feel overwhelmed with too many questions. They may need to relax first and talk later, or they may only tell you about bits and pieces of their day. Either way, it’s fine, Kennedy-Moore says. “If your child seems calm and reasonably happy, you can assume the start of the school is going well,” she says. “One of the most precious gifts we can give our children is our confidence that they will find their way.”