Three tips for easing those back-to-school jitters
Regardless of whether your kid likes school or not, children of all ages tend to feel jumpy about the new school year. They're full of questions: Who are my teachers? How do I get to my classes? Will I get the "good seat"? Will there be toys I like? Do these kids like to share? How do I get an A? How's my hair? Do I have the right backpack?
The good news is that when parents are prepared for the school year and have a plan for prepping their kids, the whole year can go more smoothly! Check out these tips for easing the transition back into study mode.
Prepare your child emotionally. Talk about going back to school and having new teachers, meeting new people and seeing old friends, having homework, and anything else that might concern your child. Talk gently and listen calmly to your kid. Even if they start ranting about how awful school is, how mean the teachers are, and so on, just listen. It's just anxiety talking. Ask if they want suggestions. If yes, offer some. If no, don't offer any (even if you're dying to!). You don't need to fix anything. It's already a huge gift when kids feel safe enough to freely express themselves.
Prepare your child physically. Yes, this mean having all the pens, pencils, paper, et cetera, but it also refers to preparing your child bodily for their new schedule. School can be exhausting and can overload the nervous system. So many people! So much noise! So many rules to remember! A child who doesn't get enough sleep loses focus, is distracted, and is cranky to boot. Here's something practical you can do: Two weeks before school starts, help your child or teen reset their inner alarm clock by creating gradually earlier bedtimes and wake-up times. Partner with your kid to come up with a plan that will work for both of you.
Define a study or homework area for each child. Some kids study better with people around them; some do better alone. Some do better with music, some without. Some do better sitting at a desk and some sitting on a couch or bed. Some need a blank wall in front of them, some a window, and some a wall with familiar pictures. Find out what works for your children. Get their input. Don't judge – kids are usually good at telling you what feels right and what doesn't, and if they make a wrong choice, they can always fix it. Some kids will need a few different study areas, depending on the subject. Also, anything they need for studying should be accessible, in their backpacks or book bags, and at home. Create a calendar so that everyone has a visual of the big due dates. Be the executive assistant, as it were, not the boss: Don't nag, don't yell, and don't do the work for them.
If you're consistent with your practices, you'll see a huge payoff throughout the school year!
Margit Crane is an ADD/ADHD Coach and skills-builder for families with gifted kids who are underachieving, over-irritating, or both! She has been a teacher and school counselor for over 25 years.
Editor's note: This updated article was originally published in August of 2011.