Getting ready for the school year is a family affair. Your positive attitude, energy and preparedness as parents will get your kids into the state of mind they need to go back to school.
Preschool is a great way to help your child start learning the skills needed to succeed in a school setting. Concentrate on what they are learning socially and organizationally and don’t overly focus on what they are learning “academically.” It can be a big leap to go from a home or daycare setting to participating in a classroom where he or she will be one of many. Sharing, being respectful, staying focused, making friends and demonstrating patience are so important in a school environment. Talk with them about the relationships they will have with the teachers and the other students, and the best way to get them off on the right foot. Respect, participation, commitment, and even a smile on their face will help create an atmosphere that’s positive and conducive to learning.
When children enter elementary school and start bringing projects and work home to complete, the question usually arises “should I do it to get it done and/or because they don’t understand what to do?” Unfortunately, assignments sometimes are above and beyond what the child is capable of handling, and can be time-consuming as well. Allow your child to have a consistently short break when they first get home – they have spent several hours at school and need to unwind, just like adults do when they get home from work. Make sure they get something to eat and drink and let them work off physical energy. After a defined break, have your child complete assignments seated nearby to an adult who can provide assistance and explain things when necessary. Perhaps the dining room table can be the homework station. Keep a shoebox nearby that holds markers, scissors, tape, rulers, etc so your child will not need to keep getting up to fetch things. The adult can also help keep the child on track and focused. As children get older, they may want to move to a desk in a quieter area (or to play their favorite music), like a study or bedroom. It is a good idea to require that, until middle and high school, children complete their assignments following their afternoon break, rather than allowing them to delay the assignments into the evening when they are tired.
As a child gets older, out of school and extracurricular activities increasingly compete with academic needs, even beginning at a young age. It is important to emphasize that, with few exceptions, those activities are secondary to school requirements. You will need to sit down and talk to your child about scheduling his or her activities around the school responsibilities, but it is also important to give kids the opportunity to do the things they are interested in and want to do. Building a happy, well rounded child is the overall goal.
As a child moves into the upper grades, two things that move significantly out of a parent’s ability to control are eating and sleeping. Parents should start emphasizing healthy habits in both of these areas at a young age. Particularly in the younger grades, limit TV and electronics to appropriate hours and enforce bedtimes. Have your child eat regularly and healthfully, teaching them appropriate choices. Does your child want to make their own lunch? Put a sheet on the refrigerator door that divides lunch foods into the following groups: proteins, carbohydrates and fruit/vegetables. Tell them to pick at least one from each category. Limit sugary and fatty foods, and leave sodas to special occasions, if at all. Try to eat together as a family at least once a day so you can provide that healthful meal, as well as reconnect and check in with each other.
When you think about growing up, the greatest portion of your child’s day is spent in school. You can have a big impact on making it the best experience possible.