Setting Your Child up for a Positive School Year
Last week the return to school seemed like a blur of lunch-box preparation, last-minute contacting of books and managing the fears and worries around new teachers and new classrooms. Now with the second week of school upon us we can focus on helping our children begin the school year emotionally prepared for the year ahead.
Here then are some tips for parents to help make the return to school a positive experience for children and themselves:
- Be strategic with how you ask about school these first days back. The family after school routine is back and with it is the need to catch up with our children on what they did for the hours they were apart from us. Nothing is more telling to children about the importance parents place on their education, then the times and places where they are asked questions and engaged in conversations. Avoid talking to kids about their first days back to school whilst distracted so that the focus of conversation is on them. If you are picking your kids up in the car, take advantage of the time driving to ask specific questions (ones which do not allow yes/no answers). Creating a routine of asking questions and having conversations about school offers your child an opportunity to process and recall their learning, and gives you insights into their overall learning experiences.
- Start the new school year with a positive outlook. You might not have heard great things about your child’s teacher. Or you might wonder and worry about the class size. You might be concerned about your child being placed in a different class to their friends from the previous year. Or the schedule which has the kids in lunch at 1:30 and that feels very late for your little one. While these are all valid concerns, there is already plenty of angst with the start of a new school year for your children. Think about what you are saying in front of them at home or when talking to other parents in the supermarket or at the playground. The first weeks of school are a good time to start with a positive outlook, to speak in upbeat ways about what is going to go well this year.
- Stay focused on supporting the relationships your child is building. When talking with your child about their school day remember to not only ask about their learning but focus on the names of their friends, their play and their impressions of their teachers. Reinforce the ways your child is developing positive relationships with their teachers and with their peers rather solely focusing on what academics they have covered during the school day.
- Build your own relationship with your child’s classroom teacher. Not every parent is available to walk their child in to school each day or to do school pick-up, where they have opportunities to speak to the classroom teacher and find out how their child is doing. In this age of technology though, there are plenty of alternatives for parents to build a strong working relationship with their child’s teacher. Send an email, join the class Facebook group or any other option that has been made available to you. Make the time in those first few weeks to introduce yourself to your child’s teacher and let them know the best way to contact you to keep you up-to-date with both class issues but issues specific to your child.
Keeping these ideas in mind – you and your kids should settle quickly back into the daily grind of school life. However, while it will take most kids up to a couple of weeks to settle back into the routines of school, some kids may take longer to get used to school again. Some indications that your child may be struggling to settle in include ongoing:
- Irritability or difficulties managing emotions
- Relationship difficulties with friends, peers and teachers
- Disruptive behaviour in classes
- Loss of motivation in school and after-school activities
- Sleep disturbance
- Reluctance to go to school
If you notice these behaviours and they seem out-of-character for your child then consider speaking to both your child about the changes you have observed but also their classroom teacher or guidance officer at school.
Be patient and attuned to your child’s needs and encourage them to discuss their concerns or worries about school with yourself. A consistent approach between you and your child’s school is the best way to bring about changes over time.
It can be tempting to keep your child at home if you notice that they are struggling to cope with the transition back to school. However, it’s important to remember that continuing to take your child to school provides them with a predictable and ‘normal’ routine, which can help them to feel safe and secure. It is also important to remember that avoidance often perpetuates or maintains the problem. It will be more helpful to support your child to attend school rather than allowing them to avoid or stay home.