Summer is almost over in the Northern Hemisphere and it is time to start thinking about getting your children ready to start school again. Here are a few tips from parenting expert Marie Marchand on how to help your child’s first weeks at a school go easier.
1 – Visit the school and familiarize your child with its environment.
Talk to your child about all the new things that are at their school (lunch at the canteen, new playground, taking the bus, etc). If the building is open, try to take a tour and see some of the classrooms, the library, meet people in the office and take a look around. Children able to picture themselves at school will help them visualize themselves succeeding as the day gets closer.
2 – Facilitate your child’s bonding with the teacher.
If they haven’t met their new teacher yet, try to see if a short visit can be organized, especially if your child is new to the school. Connecting with the teacher and feeling comfortable will help your child overcome nervousness and feel ready to learn. Make sure that your child knows the teacher’s name and perhaps find a photo. After they begin at school, assess whether your child has connected to their teacher – if not, check in with that teacher to find out what’s going on.
3 – Facilitate bonding with the other children.
If your family has just moved, make efforts to meet other children in the neighborhood so your child knowns a few friendly faces at school. Some schools may have an activity for new families. Even if your child is not new, you can arrange for them to go to school the first morning with a friend or organize a playdate before school starts to reconnect after the summer holiday.
4 – Practice saying goodbye.
For many children, the biggest challenge will be saying goodbye to you. Explain that all children go to school to learn, and parents go do their work while children are at school. You might want to have a special handshake or a goodbye ritual ready to facilitate the separation. Some children like to have a family picture in their bag to look at if they feel anxious throughout the day.
5 – Talk to your child about what to expect during the next year at school.
You can get children excited by talking about what they can expect, including snacks, the playground, reading, computers, singing and art. If you know other children who will be in their class or school, be sure to mention that they will be able to see or play with them. Encourage them to ask questions by asking what they think school will be like.
6 – Get your children back on an early bed schedule well before school starts.
Our family schedules often relax during the summer – most children stay up a bit later in the summer months. In order to learn and function properly, children need 9 ½ to 11 hours of sleep a night, depending on their age. Imposing an early bedtime cold-turkey the night before school starts could result in a child who wakes up tired and gets upsets for no reason other than tiredness. It’s understandable that without proper sleep, you can expect everyone’s anxiety to escalate. Keep an eye on the calendar and start moving bedtime a bit earlier every night.
7 – Let your child choose his own school supplies.
I’m sure most of us remember the excitement of buying new school supplies!
8 – The day before school starts, talk about what will happen the next day.
Be alert for signs that your child is worried and understand that most kids are a little nervous before the first day of school. Soon they will feel right at home in their new classroom.
9 – Get yourself to bed early the night before school so you can get up early enough to deal calmly with any last-minute crises.
Be sure children – including teens – lay out clothes the night before and that everyone gets enough sleep and a healthy breakfast. Plan to arrive at school early so you have time for meaningful goodbyes.
10 – Make sure you are a few minutes early to pick your child up that first week of school.
Not seeing you immediately will exacerbate any anxieties he/she might have.