Getting ready for the start of a new school year
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:
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.
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.saintkentigern.com/girls-school/