As summer winds to a close and the first day of school approaches these are some things you can do that will facilitate the start of a new school year.
Take a walk through the school in advance of the first day of school. If your child is going to the same school but will be in a different part of the building, make sure they know where they are going and where key places are that will be part of their educational environment. Visit the library, cafeteria, principal’s office, and gym.
If possible get a photo of your child’s new teacher and post it on the refrigerator. If you can arrange for your child to meet the teacher in advance, that would be a super opportunity for your child and for you. Talk about what it will probably be like in the new classroom. As you demonstrate your confidence in the new teacher, your child will also start out with a confident and open attitude.
In the final weeks before school begins, take some time with your child to write a prayer to Jesus and Mary for the new school year. Decorate it and post it on the refrigerator where it can easily be reached for handy praying.
Find out if you are able to go with your child to his or her classroom on the first day. It might even be helpful to find out the plans and expectations for the first few days of school so you can share these with your child. Talk about how fun and exciting this new school year will be. Get your child excited about what they can expect.
Create a parting “ritual” that you can use with your child when you say goodbye to them throughout the school year. It could be a short prayer, a promise, a poem or rhyme, or a little message of your love for them.
Write a little note to your child and hide it in their lunch or backpack. These unexpected surprises from you will help them feel your presence with them during the day.
Ask your child if there is something special he or she really wants to learn that year at school. Perhaps this would be something you can share with the teacher, or it might be something that you can work on learning together with your child outside of the school setting. This helps your child see that if they have initiative and interest they can learn just about anything.
Visit the library and pick out some books. Studies show that children forget a lot over the summer. If your child hasn’t been reading for the past couple of months, this is the time to spark their interest and start them reading again.
Start early bedtime schedules and figure out the morning routine to get to school on time. Talk about bedtime rituals that will make it easier to get going in the morning. Lay out clothes the night before. Pack up backpacks and check that homework isn’t left behind. It would be helpful to also tell your child your expectations regarding homework and playtime, friendships and sleepovers, media usage, tasks around the house, and family time together.
Try to be early to pick up your child the first week of school. Give yourself a little extra room so you can be as excited as they are as the new year begins. And if you see signs of anxiety and stress be as encouraging as you can, try to find out if there is a specific thing that is adding to the stress, and help them find practical ways of dealing with it.
Above all, pray daily for your child while they are away at school. These immensely formative years are so important. God has great plans for your child, and your prayers prepare him or her for that great mission.
by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes