Cheryl Doherty, a third grade teacher, suggests, “Parents need to be positive and excited about their children’s new learning.” Children tend to pay closer attention than normal to their parents’ emotions at the start of the school year. Sometimes, children pick up inaccurate notions by overhearing parents’ fears or stories about their school experiences. This is a time to be enthusiastic about your children’s horizons. Be sure to share how excited you are, what you expect of them in school and assure that you will be there if they need you. Children should be excited to learn, not dreading school before it begins. There are a few additional things parents can do to smooth transitions.
Most schools, pre-school through college, have formal orientation programs for new students and parents that give each group a sneak preview. Visit the school a week or two before classes start. Explore the areas of interest to your children. For example, an elementary-school child needs to see bathrooms, the playground and any bus stops they will be using to get to and from school. Middle-school students might need to practice walking to school. All high-school and college students want to know is where they can eat lunch.
It is important for your children to meet some classmates before the school year begins. This is especially important if a student is new to the community. Arrange for a few play dates over the summer as this will ensure that your children see familiar faces at their new school. Neighbors, local libraries, parks and recreation centers are all great places to connect with new friends. See if your children’s district is part of Schoology or any other academic social network. If so, their new teacher may have shared academic content like books to read during the summer, with interactive posts where students talk about the literature. Nearly all schools today have a website with links to staff pages in which children and parents can get information about what their new teacher expects, including supply lists. College students should email their new dorm mates and get to know one another a bit before the move-in date.
As parents, you should preserve as many of your children’s daily rituals as possible, from the time breakfast is served to bedtime routines. Visit the same doctor for your children’s check-ups, immunizations and athletic physicals. Even if you are thinking about changing doctors, this is not the time to do so. All members of your family need to eat a healthy breakfast throughout the summer right into and including the school year.
Throughout the summer, and back-to-school time especially, you should be reading with your children. Not only does reading and talking about wonderful books stop the “summer academic slump,” it gives children a moment each day in which they can count on. The ritual of sitting with parents, reading, talking and connecting is monumental. It is a time set aside for building the self-confidence each child needs to be a success. Consistently let your children know they are capable, loved and worthy of your attention. This provides an opportunity to praise accomplishments and point out talents. As Ms. Doherty stated, back to school is a time for parents to be positive and excited about new learning.
Back to school may mean a new grade, a new school or a new way of learning. Whatever it means to your children, be sure that by giving them a little knowledge about their new environment, a friendly face to connect with and your total support, they will be on their way to a successful year.