The transition from the lazy days of summer to the structure of the academic year can be difficult for children of any age. Kids need more than pencils, paper, books and a closet full of clothes to prepare for the first day.
Here are some helpful tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help parents get their kids on the bus, choose a safe backpack and develop good study habits, ensuring a good start to the new school year.
Before you even get to the bus stop, you should talk to your child about the first day. New classmates, new teachers and a new set of expectations can cause fear or anxiety in any age child. To relieve this uneasiness, parents should make every effort to talk about what to expect the first day and reinforce the good memories and academic successes from the previous years that would encourage your child.
Most likely, there are other kids in the neighborhood going to the same school. It is helpful to get your child together with them to either walk to school or take the bus. Depending on the distance to school and the age of your child, you should accompany them until they are comfortable with the route. Younger children are more impulsive when it comes to crossing streets, so be sure to choose routes where there are crossing guards to assist youngsters across busy streets.
If your child has reservations about getting to school, a good suggestion I have used successfully is to meet your child at school. This way, you are allowing your child the independence necessary to overcome any fears of walking or riding to school but, at the same time, reassuring them that you are looking out for them in the end.
This was especially helpful when my son went to kindergarten and, by the time he arrived at school, he was so proud of himself that he told me he could do it all by himself.
After school, children should be supervised from the time they get off the bus. The AAP recommends that even 11 and 12 year olds “should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon unless they show unusual maturity for their age.” Many schools offer aftercare programs or transportation to after-school programs that can provide children the supervision they need.
Backpack safety is a big deal. Wide, padded shoulder straps that distribute the weight evenly across the shoulders is the way to go.The weight should never exceed 10 to 20 percent of the child’s body weight. The best alternative for heavier loads is a rolling backpack but beware that they don’t take stairs or snow well.
Children need to develop good study habits from the get go. Creating a space designated for study with access to all the supplies necessary to accomplish daily homework is essential. It might be in their bedroom or it might be in the kitchen, but it definitely will not be in front of the television or among other distractions. If there is a computer for online access, parents should supervise the Internet use.
Part of developing good study habits is establishing rules. One might be no TV, video games or computer play until the homework is accomplished. Parents should not only be available to assist (NOT DO) homework but to check to make sure it is done neatly and correctly.
Taking a few minutes to stretch or get a snack, as long as it doesn’t turn into a distraction, can actually help focus a child’s attention by relieving eye, neck or brain fatigue. Those few minutes provide the satisfaction and fuel to plow through even the worst math.
A lot of teachers are setting up online sites where parents can check up on class activities or homework assignments. This is great not only to be up to date with your child’s homework but can offer a gateway into conversation. Instead of saying “What did you do today?” and getting the normal response, “Stuff,” parents can ask specific questions about the art project they completed, the guest in the classroom or the science experiment that turned into lunch. A good leading question is always “tell me more ...”
The first day of school can be difficult for some kids. When parents take the time to prepare children for what they might face on the first day, it makes it easier for everyone. From home to school and back again, your child will be reassured and empowered to tackle the first day with excitement and confidence.