The transition from summer holidays to a new school year can be tough on children, even on parents and caregivers. Summer has been fun but routine beckons. Adjusting to rising early, busy schoolwork, rigid schedules and retiring to bed on time is not exactly a walk in the park, for most. Children may also be facing a new school environment, new teachers and new peers, which could bring about new issues and some anxiety. Properly preparing your child for all these new experiences is key to helping her succeed and thrive this school year. In most parts of the world, school has started or is just starting, but it is never to late to do the right thing. Here are some pointers to help you and your child thrive this school year.
Start a Bedtime Routine
Mornings can be very chaotic so getting things done the night before will make mornings a lot more pleasant. Select outfits for the next day and lay them out before bedtime; you may choose to do this by yourself or invite your child to do so with your guidance. Ensure all homework is completed, checked and placed in the appropriate school backpacks. Create a designated place for keeping backpacks as well as to put up important notices and information sent home with your child from school. Explain that emptying their backpack each day is part of their responsibility, even for younger children. Last, but certainly not the least; children should retire to bed in good time. At the minimum, give 9 hours of sleep time.
Establish a Study Area
Designate a quiet area in your home that allows for children to concentrate and get homework done after school. Make it a dedicated space where children can work uninterrupted by younger siblings. If you have toddlers it could be a reading corner or just a small shelf with purposeful fun work like puzzles. Make it cozy and tranquil, but serious enough to focus.
Ask the Right Questions
Every time I pick up my son up from school I’m eager just like most parents to get the gist of his day. But I quickly realized my usual enthusiastically delivered question of “how was your day?” was met with his usual indifferently delivered “fine.” Really?! After waiting the whole day to hear about his day! That’s all I get?!
So I did some research and I couldn’t really blame him. I discovered the problem was not my son, it was me. I was asking the wrong question. The question is far from a conversation starter, it’s uninspiring, close-ended, and quite frankly completely boring. It doesn’t lead the child to give details, it’s very generic and so the answer “fine” is actually very fitting. In order to get a better response out of your child, you must ask questions that are more creative and would prompt your child to think of her experiences that day.
Some useful alternatives are:
What did you eat for lunch?
What games did you play during recess?
Did you catch anyone picking their nose?
What was the funniest thing that happened today?
What was the nicest thing you did for someone else?
Who made you smile today?
What would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?
Questions like this stir the child’s mind, makes them think and their answers can lead you as a parent or caregiver to guide them and help them through any possible issues they may be facing.
Turn Off the Television
Encourage your child to play quiet games, do puzzles, flash cards, color, read, and play outdoors during free time instead of watching television. Reducing screen time – TV, iPad, video games and the likes – will help ease your child into the learning process and school routine. A good place to start is limiting or eliminating screen time during the week, and reducing it even during the weekend. If possible, maintain this practice throughout the school year.
Take a more active role in your child’s education. Visit school with your child. Being familiar with your child’s school environment, teachers and administration will prepare you to be a better advocate for your child should the need arise. Review your child’s schoolbooks and schoolwork. Talk about what your child will be learning during the year; separately with your child, and also with your child’s teacher. Convey a sincere desire to be a partner with your child’s teachers to enhance their learning experience. Share your enthusiasm for the subjects and your confidence in your child’s ability to master the content.
Learning takes time and repetition, so encourage your child to be patient, attentive and positive.