Ah, the beginning of a new school year. There’s excitement, anticipation, anxiety, fear, and everything in between. As parents and children prepare for the new school year, here are some tips for starting off the new school year in a positive way based on suggestions from the National Association of School Psychologists. Some of these may be harder for you than others, so take a look at the list below and think about which are most realistic for you and your family.
- Clear your own schedule. To the extent possible, postpone business trips, volunteer meetings, and extra projects. This will help you be able to help your child get used to the school routine and deal with any confusion or anxiety that they may be having.
- Prepare things the night before school. Make lunches, lay out clothes, get bus passes and lunch cards ready. Anything that you can do the night before will help the morning run more smoothly
- Set alarm clocks. Using alarm clocks gives your child independence. Help your child set the alarm the night before and then praise them for getting up and getting ready on time.
- Leave plenty of extra time. Make sure your child has plenty of time to get up, eat breakfast, and get to school. If you have very young children who will be taking the bus, be sure to attach to their backpack or shirt an index card with their teacher’s name and bus number, and your daytime contact information.
- After school. Review with your child what to do if he or she gets home after school and you are not there. Be very specific, particularly with young children. Put a note card in their backpack with the name(s) and number(s) of a neighbor who is home during the day as well as a number where you can be reached. If you have not already done so, have your child meet neighbor contacts to reaffirm the backup support personally.
- Review your child’s schoolbooks. Talk about what your child will be learning during the year. Share your enthusiasm for the subjects and your confidence in your child’s ability to master the content. Reinforce the natural progression of the learning process that occurs over the school year. Learning skills take time and repetition. Encourage your child to be patient, attentive, and positive.
- Send a brief note to your child’s teacher. Let the teachers know that you are interested in getting regular feedback on how and what your child is doing in school. Be sure to attend back-to-school night and introduce yourself to the teachers. Find out how they like to communicate with parents (e.g., through notes, e-mail, or phone calls). Think of your child’s teacher as a partner, and make sure that you convey a sincere desire to partner with her/him to enhance your child’s learning experience.
- Familiarize yourself with the other school professionals. Make an effort to find out who it is in the school or district who can be a resource for you and your child. Learn their roles and how best to access their help if you need them. This can include the principal and front office personnel; school psychologist, counselor, and social worker; the reading specialist, speech therapist, and school nurse; and the after-school activities coordinator.
Clark, L. (1996). SOS: Help for parents (2nd ed.). Berkley, CA: Parents’ Press. ISBN: 0935111204.
Dawson, M. P. (2004). Homework: A guide for parents. In A. Canter, L. Paige, M. Roth, I. Romero, & S. Carroll (Eds.),Helping children at home and school II: Handouts for families and educators. Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
Rimm, S. (1996). Dr. Sylvia Rimm’s smart parenting: How to raise a happy, achieving child. New York: Crown. ASIN: 0517700638.
National Association of School Psychologists— www.nasponline.org
Parent Information Center— www.parentinformationcenter.org
Ted Feinberg, EdD, NCSP, served upstate New York schools as a school psychologist for more than 30 years and currently is an Assistant Executive Director of the National Association of School Psychologists. Katherine C. Cowan is Director of Marketing and Communications for NASP. This material is adapted from their article posted previously on the NASP and Teachers First (NITV, Inc.) websites.