It is hard to believe that it is that time of the year already to start thinking about going to school in September. After such an odd year last year with COVID-19, our sons and daughters can expect to be at school in person this academic year. With those 12 years of age and older and who have had the COVID vaccine, they may be given the option to not wear a mask in class. However, for those 11 years of age and younger, they are going to still need to practice safe guidelines, including wearing a mask, social distancing for 6 feet and good handwashing.
Otherwise, we are back to the usual routine of getting ready to start school that first week of September (or last week of August for private schools). Here are some thoughts and tips to help you get ready:
Your son or daughter is new to the school
Meet your new teacher. One of the big questions before school starts is, “Will I like my teacher?” You can help break the ice by taking advantage of the school open house or back-to-school night event. Usually, these events are very friendly with kids’ activities to help your child feel “at home.” Around this time, teachers may also make themselves available via phone calls or email in case you need to discuss special circumstances, such as learning disabilities or food allergies, for example. Also take advantage of the school’s website so you can let your son/daughter see a picture of the new teacher.
Tour the school premises. The open house also becomes an opportunity to tour the school. Help your son/daughter familiar themselves with the classroom, hallways, bathrooms and the main office. You may also get an opportunity to see where your child may sit and what her/his desk looks like. Sitting at the desk can bring a lot comfort. Finally, seeing the playground will help him/her visualize what recess is going to look like and feel like.
Connecting with Friends. Sometimes you get lucky during the open house visit that your son/daughter will get a chance to see a familiar face or friend. Even just one friend can make all the difference in the world as odds are, they are looking forward to being in school with your son/daughter. If you happen to know if friend might be attending that school, maybe set up a playdate prior to the open house so they can talk about the school and develop a comfort level with each other.
Recall past positive experiences. Help them remember that they have had fun with other kids in previous activities, be them sports, another school or other recreational activity. Highlight for them how they were able to get over their fears or anxieties and enjoyed themselves. Self-efficacy is part of being able to visualize yourself and see yourself succeed, and memory plays a big part.
Weeks before school starts
Get Your Supplies. One of my more exciting times before school started was going with my mom to the office supply store to buy my coloring pencils, paper pads or notebooks, ruler and pens. Check with his/her teacher as to what is being recommended so your son/daughter is ready to go on day one. Let your child pick out the supplies with your guidance. Giving them the opportunity to make decisions will empower them to go to school.
Choose a backpack. Another fun item for them to pick out! Make sure it is wide enough for school supplies, has padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Teach them about all the compartments the backpack has and what to place in each one. Encourage them to keep the backpack light so talk about what goes in it and what does not belong. A good rule of thumb is that the backpack should not weight more than 10-20% of your child’s weight. Teach them how to use both straps and make sure the bottom of the backpack is at their waste line.
Getting a new lunch box. What art design will it be this year? What was the latest Pixair movie or Disney show? This is another opportunity for them to make a choice and let them buy into the excitement of going back to school. Keep the lunchbox simple and easy to use.
Minimize school work before school starts. It might be possible that you had a curriculum, perhaps a small one and at a more leisurely pace, that you followed during the summer months. This is always a great idea to maintain some academic performance and him/her ready for when school starts. However, it would be a good idea to back off and let your son/daughter have unstructured play time at least a couple weeks before school starts.
Get back to the school routine. As a family, you probably have been enjoying the sun setting down late in the evening to continue to do family and play activities. Turning the “sleep” clock back gradually over the course of 1-2 weeks is helpful as you get ready for that first day when your child has to be out the door by 730 in the morning. Go through your routine with your child and what expectations you have so as to be on time, either being on time at the bus stop or you are driving them to school.
Make the First Day a Success!
Be on time. Better yet, if you can, try to arrive to school early so you can give your son/daughter an opportunity to walk around the hallways, classroom and recall where are the bathrooms.
Make contact with the teacher. It is a good idea to touch bases with teacher at the end of the 1st day, and maybe even every day during the first week, to see how your son/daughter is integrating into the new learning environment. Check to see how friendships and cooperation are developing. Finally, this gives the teacher an opportunity to see that you are engaged and invested in your child’s success.
Traveling To and From School
Riding the school bus. Here are a few tips to ease their fears and ensure safety:
Riding in the Car. This is a good time to review the basics just in case you are taking other children:
Riding a bike. Follow these guidelines to ensure a safe ride:
Walking to and from School.
In general, children are ready developmentally to start walking to and from school around the age ages between 9 and 11 years. But also check to see how they are doing with their impulse control. In general, younger children tend to be more impulsive and need an adult to go with them to school.