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Easing Your Kids Back Into School



Ways to deal with common back to school issues

Returning to school after the summer break can be a huge adjustment for kids and parents. The new routines take some getting use to: there are new teachers to size up, maybe a new building, perhaps riding a bus for the first time, new classmates and more challenging curriculum. Whether your child is off to kindergarten, moving up to middle school or high school, these tips will help you stay informed, be a better advocate for your child, and a partner with the school community.

Ease first day jitters

Preparing kindergartners for the first day of school really pays off. Help build excitement and confidence by talking a lot about this new experience, the friends they’ll make, the wonderful activities, teachers, and recess. Most schools offer a day in August when kids can go in to visit their new teacher, and have them see their new classroom.

For kindergartners, go over some of the tasks they’ll need to master, like holding a pencil, using scissors and writing their name. Social skills like sharing, respecting others and problem-solving are important, too. And, be enthusiastic! If you’re excited and confident, your young child will follow.

Prep your child for a new school building

Stressors created by transitions from elementary school to middle school can be minimized when the environment is responsive. It’s a time of mixed emotions, and for some children, there may be some difficulty in adjusting. Yet parents can help kids view this as a new beginning and an adventure in the making.

To make the transition go smoothly, set a positive tone — communicate that this is an exciting and fun experience. Let them know if they run into difficulties tell you or the teacher; offer your confidence that you know they can handle this adventure. Help your child with time management and organization to deal with the additional workload. It’s very important to stick with routines and connections. If Friday night is pizza and a movie make sure it’s honored. If your child is involved with a sport or hobby make arrangements so they can maintain that involvement.

Stay connected—middle school is better than ever to be involved; teachers especially appreciate a parent’s insight into their new student. Try to get a copy of your child’s schedule so he or she can familiarize themselves with it. And since your child may need to start using a locker, purchase the lock way before school starts so they can practice it. That eases a lot of stress that first week.

If your school district allows it, take your child to walk the routes to their classrooms, gym, and locker rooms. According to Dr. Marijane Reinhard, Ed. D, assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instructional Services of Warwick Valley School District “Parents should always stay involved in their child’s education. That involvement may look different from one level to the next. Parent involvement doesn’t always mean in the classroom. A parent should always be aware of their child’s homework, grades, progress and struggles. They do this by taking the time to talk with their child and really listen to his/her answers. Speak with the teacher, review the district website and read information that comes home are additional ways.”
She adds, “visit and take a tour of the school when special events are scheduled and stay on top of events and activities.”

What if troubles arise between child and teacher?

Problems happen. Here are some tips to intervene if a problem arises between your child and their teacher.

Talk it over. According to Dr. Reinhard, “Speak with your child and try to identify the difficulty or concern.” Don’t panic, but rather say something like “you’ve been telling me that you’re having trouble with your teacher. Can you tell me what he/she does that makes you feel this way?”

Listen carefully. Empathize but don’t put words in your child’s mouth. Resist the urge to bad mouth the educator; send the message that your child needs to try to work it out. Offer your support but be positive and let your child know this is a good opportunity to learn how to work with people who are tough. Tell them this is an invaluable life tool, a chance to learn how to be successful even with the most difficult people. Give your child lots of support but keep sending the message that you know they’re capable of working things out and that despite the conflict, the teacher still has things you can learn.

See the teacher. Work together to solve the problem, and partner with them to find ways to help your child adjust. Write a letter to the teacher afterwards outlining the strategies you came up and thank the teacher for meeting with you. Inform your child you’ve met with the teacher and of the plans in place to help solve the issue
Dr. Reinhard adds if after a period of time, the situation does not improve, seek out another school professional, like the guidance counselor or assistant principal, and only after all is failed, consider having your child re-assigned.

Freelance writer, Dawn Marie Barhyte, is a former educator who lives in Warwick.