Back-to-school is an exciting, emotional, often hectic time for families. The unending texts about teacher assignments and after-school schedules make this time of year one filled with great anticipation. As we ready our kids for class with new backpacks, new shoes and new pencils, we need to help them emotionally prepare for the year ahead.
Combat fear of the unknown
Help your child visualize and practice her first day of school, including how she will get there, who she will see—even what the classroom looks like. Fear of the unknown can fuel anxiety so help keep those concerns at bay by taking part in back-to-school activities like a practice bus ride or “meet the teachers” event. Talk to older kids who are familiar with your child’s soon-to-be teacher to learn about their experiences and what to expect.
Get to know the teacher
Regular parent-teacher communication is key to a child’s success, but sometimes it’s hard to know when and how to strike the right balance. It’s ok to ask your child’s teacher his or her feelings about a reasonable amount of communication. Does she prefer email or phone calls, and when does she want to hear from you or the student? Ask the teacher about her take on homework and if parent assistance is appropriate. We might be tempted to help but if the assignment is a review of classroom work, it’s important to resist the temptation so the teacher can have an accurate assessment of your child's progress.
Make good homework habits
And while we’re on the subject of homework (cue the moaning!), set up good habits from day one. Involve your children in the process of setting up and stocking their homework stations with supplies. Homework should be done in your line of vision, especially if she’s using the Internet to study, but not in the busiest spot of the house (e.g., the kitchen table). Set up a schedule that works well for your family. After getting home from school, take a 15-minute snack break and then begin homework with the easiest assignment first, then the hardest, then everything else. Be ready to be hands-on—even bossy—during the first few weeks to set good habits early.
Get help early on
If you or the teacher notice your child struggling, it’s vital to address it early on. The process of setting up an intervention is emotional and can take months to create and implement. Regardless of your child’s grade level it is important—and within your parental rights—to determine a timeline for help, intervention and evaluation, and then hold the school to it. If pre- and post-testing will be done for evaluation, know when the testing will take place, when data will be available and at what point new learning strategies are implemented. You don’t want to lose precious time—or see your child’s confidence drop—because of issues that are not addressed.
Preparation, practice and communication are key on the first day and all days of the school year. Together we can make it great!