Here are some tips from the National Association of School Psychologists to help the transition back to school a great one:
BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS
Good physical and mental health.
Be sure your children are in good physical and mental health. Schedule doctor and dental checkups early. Discuss any concerns you have over your children’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 children will benefit if you can identify and begin addressing a potential issue before school starts.
Review all of the information.
Review the material sent by the school as soon as it arrives. These packets include important information about your children’s teachers, classroom, school supply requirements, sign-ups for after-school sports and activities, school calendar dates, bus transportation, health and emergency forms, and volunteer opportunities.
Mark your calendar.
Make a note of important dates, especially back-to-school nights and parent teacher conferences. This is especially important if you have children in more than one school and need to juggle obligations. Arrange for a babysitter now, if necessary.
Make multiple copies of your child’s health and emergency information.
Health forms are typically good for more than a year and can be used again for camps, extracurricular activities, and the following school year.
Buy school supplies early.
Try to get the supplies as early as possible and fill the backpacks a week or two before school starts. Older children can help do this but make sure they use a checklist that you can review. Some teachers require specific supplies, so save receipts for items that you may need to return later.
Reestablish bedtime and mealtime routines at least 1 week before school starts.
Prepare your children for this change by talking with them about the benefits of school routines in terms of not becoming over tired or overwhelmed by school work and activities. Include pre-bedtime reading and household chores if these were suspended during the summer.
Turn off the TV.
Encourage your children to play quiet games, do puzzles, flash cards, color, or read as early morning activities instead of watching television. This will help ease them back into the learning process and school routine. If possible, maintain this practice throughout the school year. Your children will arrive at school better prepared to learn each morning if they have engaged in less passive activities.
Visit school with your child.
If your children are young or in new schools, schedule a school visit before classes begin. Meeting teachers and locating classrooms, locker, lunchroom, and so on will help ease anxieties and also allow your children to ask questions about the new environment. Call ahead to make sure the teachers will be available to introduce themselves.
Minimize clothes shopping woes. Buy only the essentials.
Summer clothes are usually fine during the early fall, but be sure to have at least one pair of sturdy shoes. Check with your school to confirm dress code guidelines.
Designate and clear a place to do homework.
Older children should have the option of studying in their room or a quiet area of the house. Younger children usually need an area set aside in the family room or kitchen to facilitate adult monitoring, supervision, and encouragement. Select a spot to keep backpacks and lunch boxes. Designate a spot for your children to place their school belongings as well as a place to put important notices and information sent home for you to see. Explain that emptying their backpack each evening is part of their responsibility, even for young children.
Freeze a few easy dinners.
It will be much easier on you if you have dinner prepared so that meal preparation will not add to household tensions during the first week of school.
THE FIRST WEEK...OR TWO
Clear your own schedule.
To the extent possible, postpone business trips, volunteer meetings, and extra projects. You want to be free to help your children acclimate to the school routine and overcome the confusion or anxiety that many children experience at the start of a new school year.
Make lunches the night before school.
Older children should help or make their own. Give them the option to buy lunch in school if they prefer and finances permit.
Set alarm clocks.
Have school-age children set their own alarm clocks to get up in the morning. Praise them for prompt response to morning schedules and bus pickups. Leave plenty of extra time. Make sure your children have plenty of time to get up, eat breakfast, and get to school. For very young children taking the bus, pin to their shirt or backpack an index card with pertinent information, including their teacher’s name and bus number, as well as your daytime contact information.
Prepare for after school.
Review with your children what to do if they get home after school and you are not there. Be very specific, particularly with young children. Put a note card in their backpack with the name(s) and number(s) of a neighbor who is home during the day as well as a number where you can be reached. If you have not already done so, have your children meet neighbor contacts to reaffirm the backup support personally.
Review your child’s schoolbooks.
Talk about what your children will be learning during the year. Share your enthusiasm for the subjects and your confidence in your children’s ability to master the content. Reinforce the natural progression of the learning process that occurs over the school year. Learning skills take time and repetition. Encourage your children to be patient, attentive, and positive.
Send a brief note to your child’s teacher.
Let the teachers know that you are interested in getting regular feedback on how and what your children are -doing in school. Be sure to attend back- to- school night and introduce yourself to the teachers. Find out how they like to communicate with parents (e.g., through notes, e-mail, or phone calls). Convey a sincere desire to be a partner with your children’s teachers to enhance their learning experience.
Familiarize yourself with the other school professionals.
Make an effort to find out who in the school or district can be a resource for you and your children. Learn their roles and how best to access their help if you need them. This can include the principal and front office personnel; school psychologist, counselor, and social worker; the reading specialist, speech therapist, and school nurse; and the after-school activities coordinator.
B a c k - t o - S c h o o l T r a n s i t i o n s : T i p s f o r P a r e n t s Family Matters
A resource from the National Association of School Psychologists │ www.nasponline.org │ 301-657-0270