Back to School Parent Tips

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

The excitement is beginning to build as a new school year is about to start. There will be new teachers and classes along with seeing friends that students have not seen all summer. There is also a bit of nervousness about how the school year will unfold.

Many times the start of the school year can set the tone for the whole rest of the year for students. This is why it is important for parents to get their children and adolescents prepared to put their best foot forward.

The first step in getting them prepared is making sure that students are in good physical and mental health. Many parents have already seen their pediatrician and gotten a school physical. Just as important, parents need to be aware of their child’s mental health. If a child experienced behavior problems in class or exhibited anxiety last school year, the odds are that those problems did not magically disappear during the summer. These issues will likely reappear quickly as school gets underway. In this case, parents should consult a psychologist or counselor and also make an initial contact with a child’s new teacher to help monitor the situation. These preventative steps can mean all the difference down the road.

A second step is for parents to review the material that was sent home by schools. These packets often contain important information regarding students’ teachers, assigned classrooms, school supply requirements, sign-ups for after school activities, school calendar dates, and bus transportation.

Getting school supplies is a tradition that many children look forward to and stores pull out all the stops in making the materials available. Try to shop for supplies a week or two before school starts and make sure that children have all of the materials from the school list. In addition, a good backpack should be purchased. If a child carries a lot of books and notebooks around, then the backpack should have rollers as younger children should not carry these heavier loads on their backs.

Once the school calendar has been received, parents need to make sure that the dates go into their phone or calendar before the school calendar sheet gets misplaced or lost. This also allows parents to make arrangements ahead of time for school holidays and parent-teacher meeting nights.

A third step is to have parents make multiple copies of a child’s health and emergency information. Most schools require this information to be on file at the beginning of the school year. It also makes it easy for children to get involved in all sorts of school activities, including sports.

A fourth step is to prepare the home for the school year. This means designating a study or work area for homework. This area should be relatively quiet in an area free of clutter. Children should also have a place to put their backpacks and lunch boxes when they get home. This will save considerable time spent searching for these items during the school year. Finally, parents can freeze a few easy dinners for those nights where everyone gets home late and no one feels like making dinner.

Once the school forms and supplies have been bought and the home has been set up, it is time to get the children ready to go back to school. Now is the time to reestablish bedtime and mealtime routines. It can take time for old routines to snap back into shape so try to get started a week before school starts.

Parents who take advantage of getting a head start on the school year will reap the benefits all year long. Get started and have your child start the school year off on a positive note.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Sunday on August 9, 2015

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