Back-to-school countdown: Tips for a successful start to the school year

It seems like summer has just gotten started, and yet we are in the back-to-school countdown. The stores are filled with colorful school supplies and the latest fashions, but preparing for a successful start to school involves more than fresh notebooks and new shoes.

Parents can do several things to help their kids set the tone for a great school year.

Re-establish routines

Now is the time to get back to your school year routines. It is extremely difficult to get your kids back inside for an earlier bedtime while it is still light out. However, it is well worth the effort to bring the night routines closer to the school year habits so kids are well rested when they return to the classroom.

Now is also a good time to start decreasing screen time if the rules have gotten a bit lax during the summer. This is not an easy process, but a slow adjustment will be easier than cutting those things off abruptly when school begins.

Get back into reading

Reading is the most important skill one can attain to ensure success in school, and the only way to improve reading skill is to practice. If reading fell down on the priority list this summer, now is the time to start it up again. Read with and to your children. They should witness their parents reading as well. It doesn’t matter if it is a magazine, newspaper, comic book or novel – it all counts as practice.

Help settle nerves

Whether they are transitioning to a new level (kindergarten, middle school or high school), have recently moved into a new district or simply have trouble with the change to a new grade, kids’ nerves can get the better of them in the weeks leading up to school.

If the school offers an open house or meet-the-teacher opportunity before school starts, parents of nervous kids should definitely take advantage. If not, even walking around the outside of the school and letting younger children play on the school playground can help them envision the coming year.

Parents should let kids talk about their apprehension and share their own nervousness about starting a new job, for example. This helps reassure the child that their feelings are valid and hopefully set positive expectations.

Support the educational process

Collaboration between teachers and parents is vital to a child’s success. With email, parents and teachers can connect easily and swap important information. Parents should understand what the expectations are in the classroom and help to carry them through at home.

If possible, volunteer in the classroom or participate in other ways within the school. This allows you to understand the dynamics of your child’s classroom and help him or her thrive in that environment.

Be interested and supportive

Once school is under way, talk to your child about what they are learning. Letting your child describe what they are learning in detail serves to reinforce the subject matter; they get the chance to be the teacher. If parents show interest and excitement, kids will be inspired to learn more.

When a child expresses a particular interest, parents can help them find books or Internet sites dealing with that topic. Although the interest may be short-lived, becoming an expert in a topic helps kids learn how to learn. It is the early steps in learning how to do research.

Reward effort

Parents also should praise effort more than grades alone. Children who work hard on their assignments and are organized in their study habits will achieve great success. Even if a child falls short on an assignment or project, if their efforts are recognized they are more likely to try harder next time. Conversely, if only the result is praised, children become frustrated with tasks that do not come easily to them and do not see the purpose in working hard.

Kids spend a lot of time in school. As parents, we want to help make that time happy and productive.

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