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Kids often have mixed emotions about going back to school after summer vacation. While they’re likely excited about seeing their friends and classmates every day, they may also feel anxious about advancing to the next grade level. And even the most confident kids get “butterflies” on their first day of school. Help prepare your child for a great, new school year with a few simple tips.
Get Familiar Before the First Bell Rings
An introduction to their new environment and schedule can go a long way towards making kids comfortable when school starts. Here are a few to incorporate in your plans.
Attend Back-to-School night
Look into whether your child’s school organizes kindergarten get-togethers or a back-to-school night prior to the start of the new school year. Meeting their new teacher(s), seeing their classroom and getting to know some of the other kids can go a long way to increase kids’ comfort level at school.
If your district doesn’t offer these events, make an appointment to visit the school or help your child review the school website for information and pictures.
Establish New Routines
Setting and maintaining routine is important to kids. The structure of routine makes kids feel more comfortable and know what they should expect on a daily basis. You should make sure your child knows what to expect in terms of chores, homework, wake-up and bedtimes and mealtimes. This structure will carry over into the school day and can help your child acclimate to the new school.
You can also “talk up” the benefits of your child’s school. This may mean focusing on how nice the playground is for recess, how they get to ride the bus to school like a “big kid” or how it’s so cool they get to go to art or music class every week.
Acknowledge and Validate Their Emotions
It’s important to acknowledge everything your child is feeling, especially at the start of the school year since it tends to cause so much anxiety — but don’t take your eye off the ball. Staying in close communication with your child from beginning to end of the school year can help you head off many emerging issues.
Make conversation about your child’s school day an expected part of your family routine. Dinnertime is a great opportunity to ask your child about the best part of his or her day, along with the most challenging aspects. Finding out sooner rather than later that your child is having a rough start to the school year increases the chances you can help him or her turn it around and achieve success in school.
Allow your child to safely experience the range of emotions that come with a new school year or with being the “new kid.” Allow them to talk openly and don’t dismiss any feelings, even when they may seem dramatic to you. If a child feels their feelings aren’t being respected, they aren’t likely to share them with you in the future.
Help Them Face Challenges with Schoolwork
Starting back to school means “leveling” up to the next grade level and, with that, comes a step up in the difficulty and complexity of school assignments and homework. Some kids welcome the new challenge, while others take a little more time to adjust. You can help them:
Organize the Night Before
Help your child to organize his or her school essentials the night before, which includes backpack, homework, packed lunch or lunch money, jacket and shoes. Having these items ready to go by the door gives you and your child a few less things to stress about during the weekday morning rush.
Stay Sharp and Healthy
Taking simple steps such as making sure your kids get plenty of sleep on school nights or start their day with a nutritious breakfast go a long way in fueling their bodies (and brains) for the day’s challenges.
Make Strong Attendance a Priority
We all have days when we feel under-the-weather, but missing school should be reserved for times when an absence is truly required, such as contagious illnesses, a death in the family, etc. While it may be tempting to pull them out for a family vacation or “mental health” day, remember that excessive absence is a key determinant in children not thriving at school.
Encourage Your Child to Get Involved
Seek out opportunities for your child to get involved with activities he or she enjoys. Organized activities such as sports, music groups and chess club help your child associate positive memories with school while meeting new friends with the same interests.
We’re Here to Help
Your pediatrician is your partner in your child’s whole health. If you need support to help them manage the stress of a new school year, connect with one of our pediatric experts to learn the best combination of tools for them.