Get­ting ready for the start of a new school year

Parenting - - Education -

Dr San­dra Hastie, Head of Pri­mary Ed­u­ca­tion at Saint Kentigern in Auck­land and Prin­ci­pal of Saint Kentigern Girls’ School, talks about pre­par­ing for the new school year.

Ev­ery year chil­dren start school – and ev­ery year par­ents won­der what to do. Whether it’s your child’s first day at preschool or in­ter­me­di­ate school there are al­ways new chal­lenges. Some chil­dren will start the year off eas­ily, breez­ing into the class­room with a quick good­bye, oth­ers how­ever can take time to set­tle in and the days can be chal­leng­ing (even get­ting them out of the car can be a chal­lenge!). Then there are those chil­dren who rush off to school with great en­thu­si­asm but have a melt­down the in­stant you pick them up. Oth­ers may get stom­ach aches, or have dif­fi­culty fall­ing asleep.

Th­ese are chal­leng­ing but fre­quent re­ac­tions to the start of school. All chil­dren have a lot to ad­just to when they are go­ing to a new school or sim­ply mov­ing up to an­other class level and a new teacher. Their re­ac­tions will vary and within a fam­ily each child’s ex­pe­ri­ence will also be quite dif­fer­ent.

The ap­proach of a new school year can of­ten be an anx­ious time for chil­dren (and par­ents!), es­pe­cially af­ter a long sum­mer break. Your at­ti­tude to this new be­gin­ning is im­por­tant as it can help to set­tle your child’s nerves and also make that loom­ing start date a pos­i­tive event on the cal­en­dar.

Here are some tips which may help you to man­age this tran­si­tion for your child:

Re-es­tab­lish rou­tines

It is nat­u­ral for your child to have ex­pe­ri­enced dif­fer­ent sleep­ing pat­terns over the sum­mer break, es­pe­cially if you have been on hol­i­day or had fam­ily mem­bers stay­ing with you. As the school year ap­proaches it is im­por­tant that you re-es­tab­lish a regular bed­time and wake-up rou­tine be­fore school starts. This will al­low your child to get re-used to go­ing to bed and get­ting up at the time that works for you and is a cru­cial step in pre­par­ing them for school as well as help­ing to break that habit of late nights or late morn­ings.

The ap­proach of a new school year can of­ten be an anx­ious time for chil­dren (and par­ents!) es­pe­cially

af­ter a long sum­mer break.

Pos­i­tive re­sponses

If your child is feel­ing a bit anx­ious about go­ing back to school, keep a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude. Re­as­sure them and re­call the fun and ex­cit­ing events that they ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the last year. Show ex­cite­ment about the op­por­tu­ni­ties for learn­ing new things in the com­ing year, per­haps it is about a camp or trip that you know they will be experiencing.

Pur­chas­ing new school sup­plies

This can be an­other pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and a fun way to give them some re­spon­si­bil­ity. Pro­vid­ing pa­ram­e­ters and a bud­get but al­low­ing them to pick out their new back­pack, lunch­box, wa­ter bot­tle and some ba­sic sup­plies can add to the ex­cite­ment. Even pur­chas­ing the school uni­form or per­haps new shoes can make it ex­cit­ing and pos­i­tive.

Get to know your child’s teacher

The faster you es­tab­lish a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with your child’s teacher, the faster your child may ad­just to the new sur­round­ings and be­come in­de­pen­dent. The ‘safer’ your child feels, the more en­ergy they can put into their learn­ing. If you are pos­i­tive about your child’s teacher this is trans­ferred onto your child and they can form a strong bond with the teacher which will help their learn­ing progress.

Get your child in­volved in at least one ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­ity

Even one lit­tle thing that gives your child a chance to in­ter­act with other kids and burn some steam counts. Whether it’s a com­mu­nity sport, a craft club, a scout­ing group, or a youth group, it doesn’t mat­ter, chil­dren need a lit­tle some­thing to call their own when they’re young. Be care­ful though of over-com­mit­ting your child. Stress and burnout are very real is­sues that can hap­pen when chil­dren spend ev­ery af­ter­noon and evening at ac­tiv­i­ties. Re­mem­ber they also need time for those “play dates” and just be­ing at home and be­ing a “kid”.

Fo­cus on the pos­i­tive at the end of the day – ask your child ques­tions and lis­ten to the an­swers.

Try to ask open ended ques­tions that re­quire full an­swers, not the ones that get a “Yes” or “No” an­swer. e.g. “What were the three best things that hap­pened to you to­day?” This will get a bet­ter re­sponse than “Did you have a good day?”

Try not to ask rapid-fire ques­tions, es­pe­cially if they are not ready to share. You need to read their body lan­guage which re­flects how they are feel­ing and re­spond ac­cord­ingly. Some­times all they need is some food or drink at the end of the school day, es­pe­cially if they haven’t eaten their lunch

Get in­volved in your school

Be­come a class rep or join the school’s Par­ent As­so­ci­a­tion. This is a won­der­ful way of con­nect­ing with your child’s school and will al­low you to get to know other par­ents. Be­com­ing part of the world that your child in­hab­its ev­ery day will al­low you to share ex­pe­ri­ences and have an un­der­stand­ing of what they are learn­ing.

Eat at least two din­ners to­gether each week

It’s hard. Ver­rrry hard, I know, with soc­cer prac­tices, lessons, and late work days. But sit­ting down to din­ner as a fam­ily has been proven to lead to health­ier kids, hap­pier fam­i­lies, and stronger fam­ily re­la­tion­ships.

It’s a great time to talk about the day, make sure your chil­dren are chew­ing with their mouths closed (re­ally!), and to ac­tu­ally sit down and look at your cute kids be­fore they run off and turn into 20-year-olds to­mor­row night. And the meal? It doesn’t have to be fancy it just has to be some­thing on the ta­ble that you eat to­gether. If you are re­ally brave - how about turn­ing off the tele­vi­sion, turn­ing off the cell phones and sim­ply talk­ing. You will be amazed what you will learn and it just might be­come the best fam­ily time you ever have!

Dr San­dra Hastie, Head of Pri­mary Ed­u­ca­tion, Saint Kentigern and Prin­ci­pal of

Saint Kentigern Girls’ School. www.sain­


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