Keys for a Smooth Start to a New School Year

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By: Cindy Smith – Counselor, Forest Oaks Elementary School

Cindy Smith Photo

Cindy Smith

The start of the new school year is quickly approaching and for many parents, this brings a sigh of relief and for others a sense of panic.  Each child is different and unique but the way we, as parents, approach the new school year is key to a smooth start. Consider these three tips as you get ready for school bells to ring.

First, consistency and routine are hallmarks of good parenting.  We all remember that advice we received about getting our babies on a schedule, right?  Schedules remain important for school-aged children, even teenagers, alike. When children know what to expect and routines are in place, they tend to thrive.  Getting back into a set bedtime and even a bedtime routine a few weeks before the start of school could reap a multitude of benefits.

Talk to your child about what your expectations will be before the hustle and bustle begin.  Will your child be expected to pack her lunch or snack? Will your middle school or high school student set his or her own alarm clock? Go ahead and start establishing this routine now. Early in the year, decide when homework will be done and where.  Not only will this help your child be successful in school but these habits carry over into eventually making your child a successful adult.

“Each child is different and unique but the way we, as parents, approach the new school year is key to a smooth start.” – Cindy Smith

Remember that some degree of separation anxiety is normal.  In my profession, I have seen students as old as middle school experience some level of anxiety over the start of the new school year and being away from mom or dad.  For many children, the fear of the unknown and what to expect brings about worry. Taking your child to meet the teacher and arranging a tour of a new school can be very helpful.

Be sure to keep your conversations in check as well. Our kids tend to be listening to everything we say and they take their cues from us. For example, if your soon to be middle schooler consistently hears you saying things like “I’m so nervous about Suzy starting middle school” or your elementary student hears, “I’ve heard third grade is a really tough year”; you can be sure that your worries are going to carry over to your child.  Approach the new school year with a positive attitude and that message will be loud and clear for your child.

This is another area where consistency is beneficial. Children who worry usually thrive in an environment where structure and routine exist. Strive to make mornings smooth by allowing enough time to get to school without rushing around and yelling. I’ve been there, done that with my own two girls, and I can assure you it makes worries worse.  Once the school year begins, if the separation anxiety persists, be sure to talk to your child’s teacher and enlist the help of your school counselor if needed. You may have to practice some tough love but usually, the anxiety subsides by a few weeks into the year.

Lastly, approach the school year remembering that you and your child’s school, and all of the people in it, are in a partnership with a common goal.  This kind of attitude will ensure a lasting educational foundation for your child. This isn’t to say that problems or conflicts won’t arise, but when you approach the situation from a partnership mindset of “what can we do to help Johnny with this situation”; a solution is sure to be found.

The responsibility of our children’s education lies on our shoulders, as parents, as well as the school’s. I can honestly say, as a parent myself, that I have encountered difficult situations regarding my daughter’s education and I have tried approaching it from the angle of us against them (the school) and it never turns out well.

Conversely, when I went into a meeting from the perspective of what can we do to solve this problem; the outcome was much more positive. Establishing a relationship with open lines of communication early on with your child’s teacher(s) is key. This helps to build trust in the educator who spends so much time with your child during the school year.

When the foundation of trust is in place, conflicts can be resolved so much easier. Remember to schedule face to face conferences when big problems arise as emails can be misunderstood and only lead you on a path further away from a solution. Avoid posting on social media when you are upset and strive to adhere to the old adage of “go to the person you have a problem with” instead of involving others.  Again, our children are watching and the biggest lessons we teach them are in how we handle the hard stuff.

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