It’s that time of year again, back to school and back to schedules, homework and often stress. Before the first bell rings, there are some very important things to be in place to insure a successful transition back to class. Preparing for these things in advance can contribute to a positive and productive school experience for most children.
The transition back to school is stressful for everyone: teachers, parents and kiddos. Some children may exhibit more extreme opposition to or fear of school, or may be coping with more specific learning or psychological difficulties. Some are excited and eager. Regardless of their attitude around heading back to school, make sure that these things are done and ready before the first day of school.
Back to School Tips
Good Physical and Mental Health.
Be sure your child is in good physical and mental health. Re-test your child’s levels and schedule consultations with their practitioner beforehand. If you’ve noticed more agitation or anxiety, do this ASAP. Schedule doctor and dental checkups early.
Discuss any concerns you have over your child’s emotional or psychological development with your team; don’t wait until they are back in the classroom. Your child will benefit if you can identify and begin addressing potential challenges before school starts. Schools appreciate the efforts of parents to remedy problems as soon as they are recognized.
Make a Calendar for You and Your Child.
This activity is important to help your child reduce anticipatory anxiety and increase their confidence in the upcoming few weeks. You can make a calendar, weekly or monthly. Younger children have difficulty thinking that far ahead however. Make a note of important dates: meeting teachers, fun events and back to school nights. This is especially important if you have children in more than one school and need to juggle obligations. Arrange for a babysitter now, if necessary, and put this on the calendar too. Have your child draw a picture of what will be happening so they can remember visually what will be occurring that day. Here’s a great one from Kiwi Crate:Back-to-School Printable.
Make Accommodations (if necessary).
Does your child meet criteria to get help at school? Have they had a 504 or IEP in the past? Make sure that it is updated and that your concerns, as well as ideas, are given to the school before the first day. Teachers get overwhelmed with requests, and they appreciate when you give them information sooner rather than later. Plus, it gives them ample time to study the information, familiarizing themselves with your child and their needs. Also remember, they have lots of kids they want to help, so the more understanding and appreciative you are the better.
Need help with accommodations? The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has accommodations for kiddos who’ve experienced trauma and guidelines for teachers in the link above. Our friends at ADDitude Magazine have tips that can help you create accommodations for your child. Therapeutically, these can be for kids who suffer from anxiety, ADD/ADHD, depression and modified for children who have sensory issues and emotional disturbances.
- Creating An IEP/504 Plan for Your ADHD Child: 11 action steps and 40 great accommodations for children with attention deficit
- 20 Classroom Accommodation Ideas for Anxious, ADD/ADHD, and Sensitive Kids
- Sample Letter & Ideas for Your Teacher
Talk to Teachers
Even if your child doesn’t need accommodations, meet their teacher before the big day. Many kids suffer from separation anxiety, our friends at Imagination Soup have a great resource for teachers and parents in explaining this. Let the teachers know that you are interested in getting regular feedback on how and what your child is doing in school as well as any of your concerns. Be sure to find out how they like to communicate with parents (e.g., through notes, e-mail, or phone calls). Remember, they are busy too and want to do the best they can to help your child succeed.
Convey a sincere desire to be a partner with your children’s teachers to enhance their learning experience. Be mindful of their time and willing to accommodate their needs too. If they say it’s not possible to communicate weekly ask if a biweekly email from you would help. Face to face is best. If not, send them a note ahead of time.
Familiarize Yourself and Your Child 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. Make sure you take your child to meet these important adults before the first day.
Even if it’s not their first year at the school, reintroduce yourself and your child before the halls are filled with students. This helps the school’s professionals too; they will be more likely to remember you and your child.
Visit school with Your Child.
If your child is young, in a new school or anxious about the first day take the time to visit the school with your child. Meeting the teacher, locating their classroom, locker, lunchroom, etc., will help ease pre-school anxieties and also allow your child to ask questions about the new environment. Call ahead to make sure the teachers will be available to introduce themselves to your child.
Re-Establish Morning, Bedtime and Mealtime Routines.
Plan to re-establish the bedtime and mealtime routines (especially breakfast) at least one week before school starts. In a new post we talk about the importance of practicing your morning routine. Prepare your child for this change by talking with your child about the benefits of school routines in terms of not becoming over tired or overwhelmed by school work and activities. Include pre-bedtime routines, reading or winding down time and ask what they think will help them before bedtime and aid in restful sleep.
Don’t forget about household chores, and ask your children what they would like to be responsible for this year. Maybe it’s feeding the family pet, taking out the trash or loading the dishwasher. Include them in the process and you’re more likely to get them to comply with their chores.
Let your kids pick their favorites ahead of time. Help yourself by giving them two options for lunchtime staples and snacks. Just as they would at school. This way you can prep ahead of time. PB&J or Turkey Roll ups? Apples or Peaches? Need some gluten free options? Click here
Two options remember: crackers or pita chips? This saves a ton of time the morning of and allows you to shop wisely before heading to Costco or the grocery store more than once a week.
It’s easier than ever to help you stock up on supplies and good for you foods. Instacart, Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime Now, helps you fill your pantry and refrigerator with organic foods, paper goods, and really anything you want. Make sure to stock up on good-for-you snacks and protein to keep kids from melting down and having a difficult evening.
Make time in your schedule after school to spend a few minutes reviewing daily and weekly tasks. Practice this now, before school starts so you will be in the habit and allot the time needed. This doesn’t mean micromanage homework, it means help your child plan for the evening.
Review Their Syllabus.
Talk about what your child will be learning during the year. Share your enthusiasm for the subjects and ask them what they are excited about. Don’t micromanage their schedules; try to allow them to take the reins.
Reinforce Your Child’s Ability to Cope.
Give your child a few strategies to manage a difficult situation on his or her own. Role play talking to the teacher or guidance counselor if situations arise (take some drama from last year). How will they talk to them, what will they say? Encourage them to talk to the teacher before you, as it will help your child to advocate for themselves and develops a sense of self-esteem. Encourage child to tell you or the teacher if the problem persists. Maintain open lines of communication with the school.
Have an awesome 2015-2016 school year!
Take Good Care,
Emily Roberts and the Neurogistics Team
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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant. Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.
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