There’s no getting around it – summer vacation will soon be over. Parents everywhere are trying to squeeze in doctor visits, dental checkups, and last-minute road trips.
Maybe you are wondering how to get your family off to a great start in the new school year. As usual, I recommend turning to the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) for answers. According to NASP (2017), you’re on the right track if you get those medical appointments out of the way before school starts. Eye exams are important, too, since many learning problems turn out to be vision problems. Be sure to bring up concerns about your children’s development, whether physical, emotional, or psychological, with their pediatrician. You’ll either get reassurance that it’s just typical development, or you’ll get direction for addressing the issue earlier rather than later.
While completing school registration procedures, check out the online portal your school may have for communicating with you. Be sure they have the best email address to reach you. Read all the information they send, even though some of it won’t apply to your family, because you’ll never hear the end of it if you miss the deadline for cheerleading camp. In fact, put it on your calendar now, and add the open house and parent-teacher conferences, too. Might as well book that babysitter while you’re at it.
Create a Routine Early
You probably look forward to the structure of the school year more than your children do. Set a date at least a week before school starts to get those routines in place. Mealtimes, homework time and bedtime should be on the schedule, but chores and reading for pleasure should also be everyday routines (NASP, 2017). Reinforce good life-long habits by teaching your kids that routines reduce stress and prevent us from getting overwhelmed. While you’re at it, set strict limits on TV and other screen-time activities, and have your children spend at least a couple of hours a day doing quiet activities like puzzles, board games, and artwork. This will ease their adjustment back to classroom expectations.
While you help your children form new habits, set up a quiet place for homework, away from the TV. Young children will need an adult nearby to keep them on track and help as needed (you don’t do their homework for them, do you?), but older students might be better off with a workspace in their rooms. You’ll know what is best for your child. Agree together on a spot for them to put their backpacks at the end of the day. Make it their job to unpack it every night, giving you all the notes from school. Do this together when they are young, and they’ll do it on their own before you know it.
How to Prepare
The first week of the new school year is important (NASP, 2017). Make it easier on yourself by freezing some dinners ahead of time, so meal prep won’t add to the stress that week. Clear your evenings so you’ll be free to handle the inevitable confusion and anxiety with plenty of laughter and hugs. Start everyone’s days early enough to get ready and have breakfast before school – no need for a frantic morning rush. Be sure not to overreact when your kids are frazzled. When you stay calm and positive, you model how to handle life’s ups and downs.
A great school year depends on great communication between home and school. Try to build a partnership with your child’s teacher. You might send a short note to the teacher to say you appreciate getting feedback on how your child is doing. Ask how they prefer to communicate with parents (notes? email? texting?). Introduce yourself at the open house and make parent-teacher conferences a priority. You can start building that partnership into a team by learning the names of the front office staff and support staff like the nurse, the reading specialist, and of course, the school psychologist. For a great school year, never hesitate to reach out to the school psychologist.
This blog article was contributed by Becky Darling, School Psychologist at Nexus-Indian Oaks Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org