Picture this: It’s the first day of school and you wake up in a cold sweat, your heart beating rapidly. You worry about missing the school bus, whether or not the teacher will be nice or if you have forgotten to pack a lunch. You have a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that today will end up being your worst nightmare. It would be easier to just stay in bed, hide under the covers and feign illness.
Suddenly, you feel a gentle pat on your shoulder. You roll over and are greeted by your child, a look of worry on her face. Is it really back-to-school time already?
Whether this is the first time you’re sending your child to school or you’re a seasoned pro, preparation is always key in ensuring a smooth transition from summer vacation to the classroom. Take it from an experienced teacher who is still tormented by horrific dreams of showing up to work late wearing pyjamas. Knowing you are well-prepared can lessen anxieties and provide peace of mind for both parent and child.
As a mother myself of two young children ages four and seven, I believe that easing into back-to-school bedtime and morning routines plays a crucial role at this time of year. Children will likely perform better when they are well rested and have started off their day with a nutritious breakfast. Here are five more top tips for preparing your child for back-to-school:
- Drop by the school office before school starts. Speak to the administrative assistant to ensure you have all of the current information regarding registration and dress code. He or she may even have a list of must-have school supplies. If this is your child’s first year, ask for a quick tour so that your child can become familiar with the layout of the building. Will your child be taking a school bus? Obtain any details regarding bus routes, times and contact numbers. You may need to arrange busing yourself. With my daughter, I assumed the school had made such arrangements. I was wrong. Also, review bus rules and expectations with your child so that she is familiar with the routine and to ensure her safety.
- Keep on top of back-to-school shopping. Does your child’s school require uniforms? Many stores will stock uniforms and school supplies even before the school year is over in June. This often leads to slim pickings in the weeks leading up to the first day. Remember that while certain styles or sizes may not be available in-store, you can probably find a larger selection online. If you’re on a budget, compare online prices and account for possible shipping fees. Also, be sure to review the return policy. I bought most of my daughter’s uniform online last year and many items did not fit her properly. And, while I liked the look of her black leather Mary Janes, running shoes were much more practical and completely within the dress code. Finally, be sure to leave room in your budget for other incidentals required during the first week of school, such as agendas and other fees.
- Choose a backpack that fits your child properly. I often see younger students hunched over lugging around extra-large bags at the expense of their lower back and shoulders. Also, it is ideal to have a set of coloured pencils, markers, etc., that your child can leave at school and another set to use at home. Students can quickly get to work and remain focused if their supplies are always in their desk or within reach.
- Stay organized with a family calendar, to-do list and memo pad. Keep them in a central location where the entire family can see them. Teachers often require the use of an agenda at school so it is a good idea to demonstrate the benefits of organizational tools such as these.
- Model a love of learning. Reading, writing and arithmetic are core subjects that schools strongly emphasize, especially in the early years. Reading books should definitely be a part of the bedtime routine, but it should also be something your child sees the rest of the family doing throughout the day. Review basic math concepts using good, old-fashioned pencil and paper or try out one of the many educational apps available for your smart phone or tablet. And if writing isn’t your child’s forte, help her generate a flow of ideas by having her tell you about her favourite summer activities. Mealtime is always great for sharing highs and lows, along with feelings and emotions associated with them, in a comfortable and safe place.
At the end of the day, you know your child best. If continual reminders of the pending first day of school cause apprehension, try focusing more on all the fun of summer vacation that is still up for grabs. Just remember to keep a positive attitude and remind your child that, no matter what happens, you will always be there to listen and provide constant support.
Diana Mancuso blogs about her experiences as a Toronto French teacher and mother of two on Toronto Teacher Mom.
More for parents of children in grade school:
- Bright ideas: Back-to-school savings (Video)
- Expert advice for back-to-school on a budget
- Six creative ways to teach your kids about money
- Five smart ways to save for your child’s education
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