May 22, 2024
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May 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Back-To-School Preparation For Young Children

Part 1

It’s almost that time of year again. In a few weeks school will be back in session. Is your child ready to succeed? Are you ready to help? It is a fact that parents who play an active role in their children’s education make a huge difference in their success. Here are some things you can do to help your child prepare for the upcoming school year.

It is important when preparing our children for the first day of school to plan ahead. Children take their cue from their parents. If parents are calm, reassuring, optimistic and supportive, children will feel both confident and competent.

Children want to fit in, so parents must begin at the beginning; first review the dress code and obtain any supply lists. This way, they can have all the required clothing, backpacks, lunch boxes and supplies purchased in advance. No last-minute shopping—it only adds stress at an already anxious time for both parents and children alike.

Children will experience separation anxiety and so will parents. Therefore, it is so important for parents to take the lead and parent—not burdening their children with their own anxieties. Be honest with your children: Talk to them about their fears, and listen with empathy. Children will tell you everything.

Here are additional tips to help prepare children for going back to school:

• If attending a new school, try to visit your child’s school at least one week in advance. Let your child get familiar with classrooms, hallways and important offices such as the principal and the nurse.

• If possible, find out if there are any friends, relatives or neighbors in their class. Knowing a child and creating a buddy system makes the transition smoother.

• Do your homework: If possible, talk to the teacher, the nurse, the guidance counselor and the principal in advance. Show both your interest and your goodwill. Tell them of any concerns you have in regard to your children’s health, and apprise them of any learning problems in advance.

• A “safety first” attitude is a very important part of preparing for the first day of school. You want your children to know traffic safety as well as physical safety. Young children should know their name, how to spell it, their telephone number and the number of a safe and responsible adult that is designated by their parents. Teach your child the proper way in advance to deal with bullies by reporting them to the teacher.

• Talk with your children about their feelings and invite them to participate in a conversation that gives them some sense of control. Never embarrass, discount or demean your children’s feelings. Ask them how they would like to be helped in this transition—what things parents can do and they can do as partners to make the first day of school a pleasant beginning. This is called the empathic process, and if you invest children in the discussion, they are more likely to follow a smooth outcome and go happily to school.

A little preparation before the big day can go a long way in easing your child’s transition back to school. It is important to be honest with your children and tell them you will miss them too—and that they will like school because it will give them new and exciting experiences. Be empathetic, be compassionate and be firm. Nurture your children, meet their needs and be reliable.

• Get the children to bed on time. During the summer, children aren’t always on a schedule. Proper rest is essential for a healthy and productive school year. Help your child get used to the back-to-school routine: start the transition now to earlier wake-up times and bedtimes.

• Communicate with teachers and the school. Contact your child’s teachers at the start of the school year. Get acquainted with them and let them know you want to be an active partner in helping your student to learn and grow. Plan to keep track of your child’s subjects, homework, activities and progress throughout the school year. Consider serving on your local PTA or joining other parent groups that engage with and support your child’s school.

• Provide for healthy meals. Hungry kids can’t concentrate on learning, so good nutrition plays an important role in your child’s school performance. Studies show that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches do better in school. Prepare nutritious meals and snacks at home.

• Take your child to the doctor. It’s a good idea to take your child in for a physical and an eye exam before school starts. Most schools require up-to-date immunizations, and you may be asked to provide paperwork showing that your child has all the necessary shots and vaccines. Always keep your own copies of any medical records.

• Prepare a study area. Set up a special place at home to do schoolwork and homework. Remove distractions. Make it clear that education is a top priority in your family: show interest and praise your child’s work.

• Read together. Read with your child every day. Your example reinforces the importance of literacy, and reading lets you and your child explore new worlds of fun and adventure together.

For children with special needs, advance preparation is crucial. Anticipating the beginning of the school year can create anxiety for both family members and for their children with special needs. Concerns surround whether your child will be successful in school, and if the new staff will have a solid understanding of learning issues and of your child. At times, you may know staff and have a good working relationship with them. At other times, staff is unknown and expectations for your son/daughter are unclear. Below are a few tips to help you become a proactive and positive advocate for your child.

•  Many teachers may not have had previous experience with special needs students. Provide information, but do not overwhelm with too much information. Your school’s special educator should be able to assist with training and/or support.

• Highlight the positive qualities of your son/daughter. Ask that information be shared with relevant staff including cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, the school secretary, the school nurse and administrators.

•  Before beginning the school year, work to alleviate any anxieties you or your child may have. Ask to take a tour with your child before the school year begins. Practice getting up in the mornings and eating breakfast, so the student and you will know how much time it will take him/her.

• Visit the lunchroom and have the student learn how to navigate the lunchroom, where to sit, and the rules of the lunchroom (e.g., going through the lunch line, sitting down in the lunchroom, etc.). Work with the staff to develop a social narrative or visual task analysis if needed.

• Ask the school to identify key people or a mentor the student can contact if s/he is having a difficult time adjusting or understanding a certain situation. Ask for the name and contact information for this person. This is especially important if your son/daughter is in middle school or high school.

•  If possible, obtain pictures of your student’s teachers and staff, bus driver, cafeteria workers, etc.

• At the very beginning of the new school year, establish methods and a schedule for communicating between home and school. Suggestions for maintaining ongoing communication include journals, daily progress notes, mid term grades, scheduled appointments or phone calls, emails, informal meetings, report cards or parent-teacher conferences. Tell teachers the method of communication that works best for you (e.g., text, email, phone calls).

• Be clear and proactive about what you hope for with your child. When school and home work more closely together, your son/daughter is the ultimate winner.

The ultimate goal is to promote a successful experience for both your child and for you. By proactively and positively working with the school, challenges can be minimized and trust built. Beginning a new school year is exciting and scary for parents and children alike. While change is difficult, keep these tips in mind to make the transition back to school a success.

Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene has had a distinguished career as a Jewish educator. He is the founder of the Sinai School, and served as principal of the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy and other day schools. He is currently a consultant to schools, non-profit organizations, The International March of The Living, and serves as Executive Secretary of The Alisa Flatow Memorial Scholarship Fund. He can be reached at [email protected].

By Wallace Greene

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