Tips for Helping Kids Happily Start School
Stay calm yourself!
While I often had butterflies in my stomach as I watched my child settle into a new school year, I tried not to show it. (Sometimes I think I deserved an Academy Award for my performance!) Children pick up cues from their parents, and any nerves that I felt or worries about the teacher or other children in the classroom would only transfer to my child and make him uneasy. I often saw parents huddled on the playground discussing the new teacher or the one with the less than stellar reputation, and I could see their nervous energy building. I tried not to become part of that, since it was not productive anyway!
Have confidence in your child
Let your child know that you believe he is capable of doing a great job in school. Review with him some of his successes in previous years. Remind him about the things he does well and let him know how proud you are of the way he perseveres. Some children have lots of confidence and sail into new situations. But most children are a bit hesitant when starting something new and your confidence will help him feel more confident, too.
Send him prepared
If a supply list comes home from school that first day or comes in the mail, respond quickly. Take your child to the store as soon as possible so that he will feel prepared. When a teacher suggests bringing something to school (a folder, backpack, pencil box, whatever!), make sure your child has it.
Children tend to worry about little things that we adults don’t often think about. If there is a sign-up sheet for “Class Snack Helper,” for example, be sure to get your name on it! On class picture day, remember to send the order form back so your child can relax. If there is a field trip planned, make sure there are lunch fixings in the house ready to be packed. I know how busy parents are these days – it can get crazy. And unfortunately, sometimes the little things get put on the back burner. Just do your best to keep track of the little things that are big things to your child!
As parents who are older and wiser, it is always tempting to jump in and direct a conversation with children. I remember when my anxiety would prompt me to pepper my child with questions as soon as he walked in the door or got into my car. It seemed that when I did this, he would just clam up and give me one word answers. My enthusiastic “How was school today?” was usually met with an offhanded “fine” or “okay” or “good.”
When I began to relax and just listen to my child, I learned so much more. Sometimes I started the conversation with an open-ended statement: “Tell me about your day.” Then I waited quietly and let my child tell me anything he wanted. I have found that children tend to talk more when they know you are really listening.
I also found that if there was a problem brewing at school with a friend or even the teacher, it was always best to give my child a chance to sort things out on his own. Jumping in with suggestions made him feel less capable and more vulnerable. So once again, I did my best to just listen. (And I found that by listening, I was better able to help solve the problem if my help became necessary.)
For more information on making sure your child starts school ready to excel, please visit www.schoolsparks.com for a free kindergarten readiness test and kindergarten worksheets you can do at home with your child to help develop critical school readiness skills.
Renee Abramovitz is a a former preschool and kindergarten teacher who retired in 2008 to become a “full-time grandma” to her four beautiful grandsons. She is passionate about the idea that all parents are their child’s first and most important teacher and strives to give parents the tools and confidence they need to successfully work with their children at home. Renee shares tips for working with young children at www.schoolsparks.com where she offers a free kindergarten readiness test parents can take to assess their child’s readiness to start school plus hundreds upon hundreds of free kindergarten worksheets for parents to use at home with their children.