How To Help Your Child Prepare for the New School Year
With school out for summer, the last thing many students want to think about is the new school year. However, as the saying goes, fail to prepare, then prepare to fail. Preparation for the school year should happen in the summer, as doing so improves the potential to have a successful school year.
Some students are excited to return to school in the fall. It’s a chance to see their friends and an opportunity for a new beginning. Some students are even happy to be back on a regular schedule. Yet, for many students, attending school is a stressful activity. According to a poll by After School, nearly 25% of students said teachers (which was the closest school-related answer) is what stresses them out the most.
Can something be done to help students have the right mindset and ultimately reduce stress, anxiety etc. when the school year starts? And what is the right mindset? There’s never a one size fits all, but there are things parents can do to help your child have a positive start to the year.
The summer is a good time for students and their parents/guardians to reflect on the past school year and consider what was problematic. “The goal is to be able to identify triggers related to school and be aware of the things that cause frustration, anxiety, etc.,” says Dr. Andre Riskin, who works predominantly with children and adolescents who are dealing with ADHD, anxiety, mood disorder, depression, and anger management issues. “Knowing this before the school year begins puts one ahead of the game.”
Being mentally prepared can be enhanced by practical preparation. One form of preparation is to keep a consistent routine. This way the start of a new school year will not be a shock to the system. “Having a routine, getting the right amount of sleep, and overall wellness habits should be maintained,” says Mindy Zapata director at Southwest Human Development, Arizona’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to early childhood development. “As students transition back to school, those that have been focusing on their well-being are on the path to a good school year upon return.”
Preparation for the school year can also come in the form of obtaining new school supplies. “The new school supplies such as pens and pencils as well as setting up a space to study helps with creating an enthusiastic start,” says Lesley Arnold a teacher with Oak Meadow, a school which offers K-12 homeschooling curriculum and distance learning programs. “It’s like a gift of a new beginning.”
Arnold also encourages students to consider their future school work. “Try to get the books needed for the school year and look through them. This way students are not surprised when they get their syllabus on the first day of the new school year.”
The Right Mental State
Coming back to school in the right mental state is a great positive. Students are ready to move forward, settle down and learn.
“I want children to fall in love with learning,” says Zapata, “and not have them feel ‘oh gosh, I have to go back to school.’” According to Zapata, those who have this mindset will learn more, stay in school and ultimately have greater windows of opportunity in life.
As a veteran teacher, Arnold suggests that students who are looking forward to school with enthusiasm, and have set goals for themselves, are in a good position for the coming school year.
Dr. Riskin believes students who adopt the growth mindset will be able to reach their potential in school. “Students should be open to new ideas and put in effort and know that this leads to growth,” says Dr. Riskin. “However, things won’t always be good, and that’s okay because we can grow from experiences and not be debilitated by them.”
Role of Parents and Friends
While some children want to chill by themselves the entire summer, socializing can be helpful in terms of preparing the coming school year. “Parents should think of the type of learner their child is and find an appropriate middle ground between family, community, and friends,” says Zapata. Socializing with friends helps children build social context and experience.
Parents can help children plan for the coming school year. It starts with a conversation. “Over the course of the summer, every parent should talk to their child about the coming school year,” says Arnold. “As part of the conversation, they can look at the school calendar and review the schedule.” By knowing the schedule, students can prepare beforehand and relieve anxiety.
It all comes down to having a plan of action for dealing with the trouble spots. Depending on the student’s age and capacity, the parent can help their child plot out a plan. Dr. Riskin suggests writing the plan down and having it posted, so it’s tangible.
For those students who are anxious, “Come up with a relaxation technique and a behavioral plan,” says Dr. Riskin, “meet with the school psychologist or other go to person.”
The Right Time?
For those looking for a plan on when to get your student ready for returning to school, Zapata suggests 3, 30, and 3.
At three months left in the summer, begin a set routine. At 30 days prior to the school year, go to the school setting, (if it’s new) and explain the new schedule, what is staying the same and what will change. And three days prior to the new school year, move into sleeping patterns aligned to what it will be in the school year.
A new school year will be dawning for students soon. With some summer preparation, it can be a great school year for your student.
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