As the summer holiday draws to an end children and parents across the country will slowly starting shifting into “back to school” mode again. Whether your child is starting at a new school or has simply moved up a grade in the same school, the beginning of the school year can be a stressful time. Your child may worry about adjusting to a new teacher, new teaching styles, the increased academic demands or even the changes in his social circle and whether his friends will be in the same class with him. Here are some of the ways in which you can help your child get ready to go back to school:
Start a conversation about what to expect. Chatting to your child in positive terms about his new teacher, the friends he will have in his class or will see on the playground and what he can expect to learn this year will help prepare him for the year ahead.
Re-establish school routines at least a week before school starts. Make sure your children get to bed early and set the alarm so that they will get up at an appropriate time for when they go back to school. Practice getting dressed, having breakfast and brushing teeth without lingering about and ensure that your child eats breakfast, snack, lunch and dinner at the same time that he will when he gets back to school as this will prevent him from experiencing unexpected hunger pangs during the school day.
Brush up on organisational skills. Have your child practice packing his school bag and setting his outfit out the night before. Discuss where you expect him to stow away his bag after school, where to put his lunchbox and where and when he should do his homework. Provide your child with all the tools necessary to stay organised be it a homework diary, a calendar or checklists. Put a family calendar in a common area for older kids so that all family member can write in their activities.
Take stock of last year and review aspects of your school routine that need to be improved upon. What caused the most frustration? What do you know needed to be done, but you just never found the time? If getting the children to school before you dash off to work was a mad rush last year, consider establishing a car pool with a few of the other parents that live near you. Or work on a back-up-plan for days when your children unexpectedly fall ill.
Practice saying goodbye. Little ones, whether they start at new school or simply go to a new grade, may easily become upset if they suddenly need to take leave of mommy or daddy after the luxury of spending lazy holiday days with their parents. Practice leaving them with family members or with friends for play dates for short periods at a time so that they become accustomed to being away from you. Little ones may still want to take an attachment object, such as a soft item of clothing or a small object that reminds them of you to school. Placing a laminated photograph of the family in your child’s schoolbag or sticking it to the first page of her diary might also help her feel calmer and more assured.
Take advantage of any “meet-and greet” opportunities. Whether it be an orientation day for your child, a parent-teacher meeting or a social get together with the parents of other children in your child’s class try your best to attend. If your child is going to a new school, find out whether you could pop in a few days before the school starts to show her around the buildings and playground and to introduce her to her new teacher.
Update your emergency contact information as well as your your child’s health information at school. There is nothing more frustrating for a teacher than trying to contact a parent in an emergency or with vital, last-minute information and not being able to get hold of them because they have not let you know that their contact details have changed. Similarly, if you’ve discovered that your child is allergic to something over the holiday or if he has sustained an injury or acquired a chronic illness, no matter how insignificant it may seem, be sure to alert your child’s teacher to this as it will help to ensure his comfort and safety throughout the school day.
Get your child’s brain ready for learning. There is nothing I love more than to “switch off” completely during the holiday. I purposefully do not allow myself to think too long or too hard on any topic and find that this does wonders for my stress levels, unfortunately it usually takes me a day or two to adjust to the fast-paced level of thinking required by my job once I get back to work. The same principles apply to children and learning. Spending long days playing in the sun and hanging out with friends does little to prepare one for thinking about long division or essays. Wake up your child’s brain again by encouraging him to read or to play educational games in the week before school starts again.
Anel Annandale is a prominent Educational Psychologist with a passion for early childhood development and a special interest in neuropsychology.
She is experienced in the field and has established herself as an expert, often appearing on television shows such as Exspresso. She is also available as a guest speaker at relevant events and functions.