Come September, everyone in our house will be back in school. I teach 4-year-old preschool at a local preschool and kindergarten. This week has been filled with organizing my classroom and lesson plans for the coming year. Ask any teacher and they will all tell you the importance of being prepared for the first day of school. As teachers we plan and prepare in advance knowing that all this work is setting us up for a successful first day of school.
But being prepared is not limited to the teacher. As parents, our days are filled with tracking down school supplies, buying new latest and greatest fashions, and making sure our pantry is full of food for lunches. All of this can be fun but there is a whole other side to being prepared for school that we can easily over look. Below are some ideas I want to share with you that come from my experiences as both a parent and a teacher.
- Talk About Feelings. Its completely normal for kids to experience a wide range of emotions as they anticipate the start of school. It’s also normal for kids to be feeling these emotions but lack the vocabulary to appropriately express their emotions. Both my boys will tell you they are excited for school to start. But I’ve noticed over the last week that tears run close to the surface for my 2nd grader and my kindergartener is arguing with me every chance he gets. I know my kids well enough to know that these are their physical expressions of nervousness and anxiety. So, what do we do about it? We talk. We talk about what excites us about school. We talk about what makes us feel nervous or scared. We talk about why it makes us feel scared and what we can do so we don’t feel scared. Talking about the emotions your kids are feeling helps to normalize the feeling and teaches them what to do with that emotion.
- Check-In With Yourself. It’s normal for us as parents to have a lot of emotions about school starting too. What we do with these emotions is equally important. Check-in with yourself to make sure you model healthy ways of handling these emotions. Also make sure you are taking time each day to take care of yourself. It's easy to but ourselves last but if we are being filled up, we cannot continue to pour out into our kids' lives. I've noticed this week that my patience is running short so I've been mindful to give myself moments alone in the morning or late evening to read a book for fun. Often it feels contrary to be reading a book when my "to-do" list is so long but I've found that I actually get more done and am more engaged with my kids when I take time to take care of myself.
- Take Advantage of “Back to School”/ “Meet the Teacher” Opportunities. Its helpful if you can visit the school, meet the teacher, see the classroom, find the bathroom, and tour the school together before the first day of school. If your school doesn’t have a formal time or you are not able to make it to the event, call to arrange a one-on-one meeting. This is also great if your child is really struggling with the anticipation of school. Having taught for many years now, I find these before school meetings go along way in making a smooth transition on the first day of school. I just had a student come visit me today. We had a tea party together and I learned that her favorite color is red. The 15 minutes we spent together has formed a relationship that will make her transition to the classroom next week easier for her and for me as her teacher.
- Facilitate Your Child’s Relationship with their Teacher. Your child’s teacher is going to be an important part of their life for the next nine months and a good relationship is key to success. Encourage your child to draw a picture for their teacher or do something else that will build relationship. On our way out the door this afternoon for our school’s “Back to School BBQ,” my kindergartener grabbed a rock to show his teacher. It’s not a special rock to look at but it became a special way to build relationship with his teacher. He proudly showed his rock and she appropriately “oooed” and “awed” over it and now they have a connection.
- Start Re-Setting the Internal Clock. I don’t know about your family, but summer time bedtime is all over the place. This translates into sleeping in until 8:30-9:00 in the morning. Next Tuesday, my kids have to be up, dressed, fed, and in their desks by 8:30. It’s not going to be pretty if we don’t start adjusting our internal clocks now. This week we have been slowly working towards being in bed by 8:00 in hopes that their bodies will start to adjust. It’s a hope because my kindergartener is not a morning person no matter how early he goes to bed!
These are just a few of my thoughts but I’d love to hear what you find to be helpful for you and your family as you get ready to head back to school. Leave a comment below filling us in on what works for you!
Also, as a Parent Coach, I love working with parents who might are struggling with how the transition back to school. There are so many reasons this season could be a challenge. If you are finding yourself knowing that something needs to be different but struggle to know what that is or how to do it, give me a call or send me an e-mail. I’d love to work with you on building a solid foundation for your family to thrive this school year!