Many students and parents have a lot of anxiety about the first day of school and it can continue throughout the year, but there are things a parent can do to make school a bit less stressful.
According to an ABC News Poll, 41% of kids are stressed about the start of school in the fall. In addition, a surprising number of parents, particularly moms, feel stressed about how their children's year will go, both academically and socially. What can you do to help your child have a great school year?
Prepare in Advance for the School Year
Start early to help your children get ready for the school year. Let them assist you in choosing their first day of school clothes, lunch boxes, notebooks, backpacks and other school supplies that they will need. Help them get everything organized for the first day. Begin going to bed early and getting up early during the days before school starts. It may help to schedule some early morning activities or shopping trips, so your children are more enthusiastic about the schedule change. Do a trial run. Drive to the school and see if anything is obviously different. If possible, help them find their classrooms, and even meet their teachers, before the first day. If your children will be taking their lunches to school, try out any new food items that you are considering.
Start the First Day of School off Right
Many parents and children find it helpful if they can be taken to school by the parents on the first day. This can alleviate not only the child's stress, but also the parent's. Make sure that the children have eaten a good breakfast, and that they have all their supplies with them. Review the plans for returning home after school. Then, have a pleasant, cheerful, light-hearted trip to school. If your child is extremely anxious, try to be comforting and reassuring, and repeatedly tell your child how confident you are in their ability to handle the day well. For younger children, it might even help them if you walk them right up to the classroom door. If they have attended that school before, they will probably see a few familiar faces in the classroom. If they are new to the school, this will give you an opportunity to introduce your child to their new teacher and make sure that the teacher is aware that your child is new. These actions will help children have an easier first day of school, and reduce school anxiety.
Establish Effective Homework Routines
There are also a few things parents can do to reduce homework problems. Children need to have a consistent time to do their homework. For many students, it can be hard to settle down if other family members are watching TV, playing video games, or engaging in other noisy activities. Perhaps the entire family can spend an hour or two in the evening engaged in quiet pursuits … paying bills, working on the computer, or reading. If your student needs help with their schoolwork, take time to give them the directions and get them started in the right direction, but be careful not to do their work for them.
Maintain Consistent Schedules during the School Year
Children are more successful in school when they have plenty of sleep, healthy meals, and show up for school in the morning feeling prepared and knowing that their work is organized and complete. Students need a regular bedtime that will allow them to have AT LEAST 8 hours of sleep. Many children do their best when they have 9 hours sleep. Help your children maintain a consistent schedule when they are young, and they will fall back into it even when you aren't able to be around all the time as they grow older. The younger they are when they learn good habits, the longer they will maintain them.
Get Your Student Help if They Need It
If your child is struggling with a particular subject, seek outside help if you are not able to help them personally. Many schools offer free after school tutoring programs. Sometimes local high schools and colleges can put you in touch with tutors available for a fee. Your child's teacher may also be able to recommend someone. Do not allow your child to fall further and further behind, because eventually they will give up and may even begin to label themselves as "dumb." We all struggle to understand certain material, and sometimes we just need a different explanation in order for it to begin to make sense.
In addition, sometime parents think "they'll catch up later." This rarely happens. Once your child falls behind in a subject, particularly reading or math, you need be quick to see that they get help ... after school, during the summer or over their breaks. They are unlikely to catch up without these extra services.
Be a Forgiving Family
Everyone makes mistakes, loses their glasses or jackets, forgets to bring home a book, or just messes up once in a while. If these things are happening occasionally in your family, treat the incidents lovingly and with forgiveness. If a situation develops into a serious problem, such as a child who never brings home their homework because they "forgot," speak with their teacher, the school counselor or seek professional help. There is probably an underlying problem that the child is trying to escape. If they frequently lose items, they may have ADHD, and you will need to discuss this with their pediatrician. Whatever is going on, becoming angry and upset with the student is usually not going to be the solution. If your child feels that they live in a loving and forgiving family, they will gain confidence that most of their academic and social school problems can be worked out!
You may also be interested in reading about fun and/or educational activities to do with your kids:
Summer Bridge Actitivities, Like the One Below, Can Help Your Kids
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