The start of a new school year is fast approaching! This time of year can be a very exciting and joyful time for some, but it can also trigger some feelings of nervousness or apprehension (for both kids and parents).
This year will mark my 15th year as an educator, and now, as a parent, I also have a house full of school-aged children — this year with a preschooler, kindergartener, second-grader and fifth-grader.
I understand the range of mixed emotions that come with the start of the school year, and — in my experiences of being both a parent and teacher — I’ve learned the value of getting kids off to a good start.
Whether you have a child entering school for the first time, entering a new grade level or transferring to a new school, taking a proactive approach to your child’s transition back to school can help alleviate stress and will best help your child adjust and ease into the routines of a new year.
What can you do to help your child make a positive transition to school this year? Consider these tips:
Soon enough, my children will need to be ready to catch their bus to school by 7:12 a.m. and will be expected to be ready to learn in their classrooms by 8:05. This is going to be a major shift from our laid-back summer mornings in which they might not have eaten their breakfasts by 9 o’clock.
It can be extremely helpful to adjust the routine of your family a couple weeks prior to the school year, working to become in sync with upcoming wake-up times, lunch times and even snack times for your elementary-age child.
For example, the simple act of feeding your child lunch at home at the time your child will be eating lunch at school may reduce hunger cravings that could be distracting for your child’s learning and school engagement during the first weeks of school.
Focus on sleep
Sleep is SO crucial to school success. From the perspective of a classroom teacher, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of sending to your child to school well rested.
This is one of the most important things you can do as a parent to help your child thrive in school. And yes, I know it’s not always easy. Shifting your child’s sleep schedule is hard, especially making the shift while still on summer break, but trust me, it makes a difference.
Even if your child’s been getting up earlier to go to child care or summer events, when your child enters school, he or she will be expected to self-regulate at a different intensity for the length of a full school day, and this can be exhausting.
Individual sleep needs vary, but according to the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute, school-age children need about 10 hours of sleep a day.
Calculate when your child needs to go to bed to get enough sleep at tinyurl.com/sleep-needs. Start adjusting sleep schedules two weeks before school starts.
If you (or your child) are anxious or nervous about the transition to school, make a point to help alleviate these worries by visiting to your child’s school and meeting with your child’s teacher well before school starts.
Ask your child’s teacher or principal questions and talk with your child about his or her excitement and acknowledge any worries. Your principal, teacher and school support staff want to help you and your child make as smooth a transition as possible.
You can also read picture books with back-to-school themes. There are many beautifully told stories geared toward children that navigate common worries, such as separation anxiety, meeting new teachers and making new friends.
Shop for supplies
This year we’re going to continue our tradition of school-supply shopping with some friends. I’m not a big shopper, so this is as much of an incentive for me as the kids! Everyone gets to pick out folders, pencil boxes, glue sticks and Kleenex boxes. Then we go out to lunch.
It’s amazing how excitement and anticipation for school can build with a cart-full of new school supplies!
Whatever stage you’re at with your children in their educational careers, I wish you a wonderful start to the new school year!
Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four children (ages 3 to 10) on the edge of the wilderness in Northeastern Minnesota. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out her blog at kidsandeggs.com.