It’s that time of year again! Time to get the kids ready to go back to school. For some children, this is an exciting, welcomed time.
For others, it marks the beginning of stress – adapting to changes, meeting new expectations, heading into the unknown or even returning to subjects that are challenging. It is wise to take the weeks before school begins to prepare your child and facilitate the smoothest transition possible. This is especially true if you know your child has difficulties handling change.
Here are 10 steps that may make the start of the year easier for students and their parents:
- One to two weeks before school begins, set your alarm clock and begin waking up your sleeping beauties at the time when they would wake up for school. This will help their bodies and minds adjust to the new schedule.
- Will your child need help remembering the steps of a morning routine? If so, practice the routine in the weeks before school starts. Consider posting a list of steps on the bathroom mirror. Some parents have used dry erase markers to list and color code steps right on the mirrors. Others find pictures online of the steps and post them on the mirror in order. Some students may need to practice all morning steps, including leaving the house and heading to the bus stop.
- If you know your child has difficulties with transitions, call the school during the teacher work week (the week before school starts) and ask to have your child’s schedule emailed to you. That way, you can sit down with your child and review the schedule. If your child has to adjust to a different eating time, you can start having lunch at home at the same time, etc.
- Go to the school orientation or arrange a visit if that time is not suitable. Take a moment to introduce yourself and your child to each teacher. If you know you have a specific concern you would like to share about your child, ask the teacher if s/he would like to discuss it then or at a more appropriate, private time. Understand that it is sometimes difficult for teachers to meet all the students and their parents and hear specific details about a single child in the same meeting. The teacher will appreciate your asking and following through at an ideal time, and you will appreciate the teacher giving you his/her best attention.
- Set up a drop spot in your home. This will be the standard location for book bags, lunch money, shoes, etc. Let your child know this drop spot will be used every day of the school year. When morning comes, your family will not be scrambling (and perhaps arguing) as you try to locate items your child needs. Place a checklist of what items should be in the book bag and drop spot above the drop spot. Practice this before school begins.
- Plan and discuss a bedtime routine. Again, if you need to make a written or picture list to post, consider doing so. Practice the bedtime routine in the weeks before school begins.
- Review after school procedures with your child. If your child is going to a new child care facility or sitter after school, make an appointment and take him/her there to familiarize him/her with the new place. Also, if you expect your child to come home, contact you, do homework, get ready for dance class, set out all notes for you to sign in a certain location, etc., it is good to sit down and discuss those plans. It is even better to list them for your child.
- Set up a school/family binder. In this binder, you will place documents related to each of your children—school policies, classroom rules, calendars, course syllabi, teacher information, current academic testing reports, current IEP’s or 504 plans, extracurricular information, etc. Many papers will come home on day one of school, so it is wise to have your binder ready. By maintaining this binder, you will always know where to find the information you need to help your child and family navigate the school year.
- If your child has a special school plan such as an IEP or a 504 plan, be sure to share that with the teacher before the school year begins. Even though these records should be in your child’s file, the beginning of the year can become so hectic that reading this beforehand may be missed. Be sure to let each teacher know that you realize s/he has many students with needs to meet, so you will remind him/her of any goals, modifications, etc. in that plan every 4-6 weeks, just so they will stay fresh and in mind.
- Be positive about school. This is especially true for young ones heading off to kindergarten. Present school as an exciting adventure. Let your child know that new, fun things await as soon as he or she gets off that bus, and you cannot wait to hear about all the wonderful things when your child gets home. If you act anxious and uneasy, your child will pick up on it and may share your feelings. Let your child know ahead of time that their job is to ride that bus (or car), get out quickly with a smile, and think ahead to what fun they are going to have once they get into the door of the school. If you feel it would be good to physically practice this, use the time before school begins to do it.
It is important to have a strong start to the school year. Setting the tone for a great school year may make all the difference! You and your child deserve a fabulous school year. Enjoy it!