Back to School: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

It’s that time of year again. Parents who have been scrambling for child care all summer, juggling camp drop-offs and play dates are probably looking forward to it. Those who’ve been enjoying the lazy, relaxed days of summer are probably dreading it. Staples brilliantly captured the ups and the downs in this ad from 2009.

Going back to school brings up lots of emotions for everyone involved. Most teachers are excited for the new school year, which brings with it a new group of students and hopefully time to collaborate with colleagues and try out new techniques. Many of them have worked hard over the summer to recharge their own batteries and attend professional development workshops to keep their skills fresh and their enthusiasm high. Generally, they got into this line of work because they like it!

Some kids love school, and they can’t wait to get back to see their friends and start learning again. For too many kids, school is the only place where they get regular meals and have a reliable routine. Some students are not quite as happy, as they may be frustrated by the academic and physical demands of school: paying attention, staying seated for long stretches, and the limited time for socializing with friends.

Parents, too, have different feelings about school. While they may view school through the lens of their own experience, each new school year also represents the passage of time: with every September, children start new grades and pass milestones. Regardless of individual family members’ feelings about school, a new school year can be stressful for everyone.

The American Psychological Association suggests that parents ease back into the school routine by starting a week early. If your child’s bedtime has been more relaxed over the summer, now is the time to re-establish a good sleep pattern. Organizing school supplies and picking out a first day outfit ahead of time will also help your child feel more ready.

A website called Be a Learning Hero, established by the National PTA and several other partners, offers recommendations for parents to ensure that children have a successful year. Focused primarily on academic achievement, the website suggests that parents understand their child’s learning goals and strengths/weaknesses, establish a relationship with the school and the teacher(s), and support learning at home through the use of resources such as Khan Academy.

If your child has a lot of anxiety about returning to school, there are even apps for smartphones or tablets that can help. Designed to help kids identify their feelings and sources of stress, these apps help ease their worries through writing, listening to music, or performing deep breathing.

Helping your child role play different situations can also help her to feel more confident about starting a new school year. Many kids aren’t sure how to react to new circumstances, which causes anxiety. Help your child brainstorm about things that might happen at school and various ways to respond. You might talk about meeting new people, not knowing the answer to a question, or seeing unfamiliar foods in the cafeteria. Give your child the language to express himself and stand up for himself.

Enlisting the teacher as a partner is also key to ensuring that your child has a positive experience at school. The teacher wants your child to succeed as much as you do; your child’s learning and good behavior reflects well on both of you. If your school offers a home visit, a parent-teacher meeting, or Back to School night, take advantage of these opportunities. If you have time, call or write the teacher a note to share your child’s strengths and your expectations for the year. Make sure that your child knows that you respect the teacher and that he or she is there to help.

Finally, remember that morning experiences can set the tone for the whole day. If your family has difficulty getting up in the morning, set the alarm clock for 15 minutes earlier than necessary. No one enjoys feeling rushed or arguing in the morning. Stress raises cortisol levels, and high levels of cortisol can interfere with learning. Take the time to eat breakfast, smile at one another, and share something positive. All family members will have a more successful day, regardless of whether they’re going to school or work.

This post was also published on GoLocalProv.


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