Tips on How Parents Can Prepare Their Child for the School Year
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
“It is never too early to start talking with and listening to your child about the upcoming school year,” says Dr. William Hansen, PhD, Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Dr. Hansen advises that parents begin talking to their child about school a couple weeks before it starts, and that they listen closely for their child’s fears or concerns. “By the time August has arrived, the process of transitioning from summer to school should be underway,” he says.
“It is important that parents listen to and respond to their child’s potential anxieties about the new school year. It is perfectly normal to experience first day jitters,” he says. These feelings can be relieved with some of the suggestions below.
Preschoolers and kindergartners need to know what will happen:
- Parents should take their child to visit their school and let them play on the school’s playground, walk through the classroom and meet their new teachers before school starts.
- Parents can let their children watch educational cartoons to help prepare them for what they will learn at school.
- Talk to your child about the new school year, new grade level and new teacher.
- Prep for school success by establishing a “school area” to keep supplies.
- Take your child on a school shopping trip, and allow her to help choose a backpack, notebooks, and/or pencils needed for school. The supplies don’t need to be expensive!
- To help ease the transition for younger or anxious children, parents may want to tuck some small reminders of home (perhaps a picture) in a backpack or lunch.
- Parents should establish routine bed and wake up times to prepare their child for their school schedule.
- Be Positive & Excited for the new school year!
Elementary school children will need to adjust to new beginnings:
- Parents should expect that their children may want trendy or “cool” school supplies.
- It is well worth taking a quick trip to school before classes start to help locate lockers and classes. If there is an orientation, by all means show up to it. Your child will see your investment in the school.
- Right from the start, help your child get and stay organized.
- Set up specific homework/study times to help your child develop critical study skills that will be needed for years to come.
- Talk to your child about high-risk behaviors, such as drinking, drug use, and sexual activity. Middle school is the time when children may begin experimenting with these high risk behaviors. Don’t wait for high School, have this talk early and often.
- Encourage your child’s participation in at least one extracurricular activity or school club. Please let her choose the activity. Children who are involved in such activities generally do better academically, have better social relationships, and are more confident, resilient, and happier. Make sure they are involved in some activities but don’t let them get over-loaded!
- Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with the school counselor right away if you have concerns about how your child is adjusting to school. Keep the lines of communication open.
Teens need and thrive on positive reinforcement:
- Parents should help their teen set realistic goals on how to earn the best grades.
- Parents should help their teen become organized by buying a daily planner and teaching the child how to use it correctly. iPads, tablet computers, lap tops are increasingly used for this purpose.
- Parents should encourage their teen to get involved in at least one extracurricular activity or sport because it will help them meet people. Studies suggest that when children feel connected to their school they have another reason to do better academically.
- Even if last school year wasn’t the best for your teen, every year can be a new beginning and parents could model encouragement and enthusiasm.
- Continue to support and encourage good study habits with regular homework/study times. Really look hard for opportunities to offer positive reinforcement. Catch them studying/researching/writing, and give them a high five.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Ask questions about what’s going on in your child’s life. (Use open-ended questions, rather than those that require only a “yes” or “no” response). Listen closely when the child expresses what is happening in her life.
- Set aside family time as much as possible.
- Continue to stay involved! Studies show that at all grade levels - even high school - the more parents are involved in their child’s life and the more they know about what is going on at school, the better their kids do. Stay in the center of your child school life and you will know what is going on, and how things are going.
About Cincinnati Children’s
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S.News and World Report’s 2013 Best Children’s Hospitals ranking. It is ranked #1 for cancer and in the top 10 for nine of 10 pediatric specialties. Cincinnati Children’s is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health, and a research and teaching affiliate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The medical center is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at www.cincinnatichildrens.org. Connect on the Cincinnati Children’s blog, via Facebook and on Twitter.