Parents’ Guide for Back to School: Navigating the Transition
By Jane Riffe, EDD, LICSW, LPC Assistant Professor, WVU Extension Service specialist in Family and Human Development
beginning of school means changes from the “free-flowing” days of summer to regular daily routines. Though these August to September changes are predictable, the transition can be rough for adults and children, especially young children. Here are some tips to help boost your children’s attitude, confidence, and school performance.
Re-establish school time biorhythms. Get back into regular bedtime and mealtime (especially breakfast) routines. Talk with your child about the benefits of school routines in terms of not becoming over tired or overwhelmed by school work and activities. Include pre-bedtime reading and household chores if these were suspended during the summer.
- Introduce yourself. Send an email introducing yourself to your child’s teacher if you have not had the opportunity to meet them yet. Download a free Parent-Teacher Introduction e-mail template to send out. Go with your child to the school, asking him or her to show you around.
“Where is my backpack?” Select a spot by the door to keep backpacks, lunch boxes and school supplies. Enlist your child’s help in setting up a “homework zone”. Older children should have the option of studying in their room or a quiet area of the house. Younger children usually need an area set aside in the family room or kitchen to make it easy for adults to encourage and monitor. Teach your child to clean up his homework area every evening after homework is complete. Books and homework placed inside backpacks, and backpacks placed near the door help eliminate rushing around in the morning.
- Minimize clothes shopping woes. Buy only the essentials. Summer clothes are usually fine during the early fall, and be sure to have at least one pair of sturdy shoes. Confirm dress code guidelines. Common concerns include extremely short skirts and shorts, low rise pants, bare midriffs, spaghetti strap or halter tops, exposed undergarments, and clothing that have antisocial messages.
- Good physical and mental health. Discuss any concerns you have about your child’s emotional or psychological development with their pediatrician. The doctor can help determine if your concerns are normal, age-appropriate issues or require further assessment. Your child will benefit if you can identify and begin addressing potential issues early.
Clear your own schedule for the first few weeks of school. When possible, postpone business trips, volunteer meetings, and extra projects. Be free to help your child adjust to the school routine and overcome the confusion or anxiety that many children experience. Mark your calendar with important dates, especially if you have children in more than one school and need to juggle obligations and arrange babysitting.
- Parent papers need a place, too! Pick a place to deal with forms sent by the school and read it as soon as it arrives. These packets include important information about your child’s teacher, room number, school supply requirements, sign-ups for after-school sports and activities, school calendar dates, bus transportation, health and emergency forms, and volunteer opportunities.
- Turn off the TV. Encourage your child to play quiet games, do puzzles, flash cards, color, or read as early morning activities instead of watching television. This will help ease your child into the learning process and school routine.
- Be Smart with your Smart Phone! Time magazine recommends these applications to make classroom work easier. These include a homework tracker, note-taker, recorder for lectures, and more. Top 10 Back to School apps.
- Most Important Tip of all: Take time to listen. Invite your child to talk about her or his day and then practice active listening to their thoughts and feelings to show interest and curiosity, rather than judgment, about their school experiences.
More tips for kids of different ages can be found online:
- Preparing Kids for School, ParentFurther. http://www.parentfurther.com/parenting/school-success/preparing-kids