Preparing for a new school year can be not only exciting but also scary and stressful for you and your child. Here are some tips to make the process go more smoothly and start your school year off right.
Check with your child’s school to see what immunization updates your child will need. And if your child participates in sports, they will likely need a sports physical. Do you always forget to get the kids’ doctor, dentist, and eye appointments until right before school starts? You’re not alone. August is one of the busiest months for medical appointments. But wasting your child’s last days of summer waiting in an office for shots is the last thing you or they want to do. Try to set appointments earlier in the summer. Get in, get out, and get on with summer.
Everyone feels the crunch before that first bell rings to make sure their kids’ backpacks have all necessary supplies and their kids are dressed for success. Some schools and stores provide lists of required materials for each grade, so check in your location. If you’re brave enough to face the shopping crowds in Texas, Tax-free Weekend is a great time to score amazing deals on school supplies, backpacks, clothing, shoes, and more. Consider buying extra supplies so your child can have what they need now and later on in the year. In 2016, Tax-Free Weekend is August 5–7.
If you decide to have your licensed child in high school drive to school, here are some things to remember. Many schools require cars in the parking lots to be registered with the school, so ensure your child’s car is registered to avoid paying a towing fee or other penalty. You could take this opportunity to teach your child responsibility and require them to pay for part of the car, the insurance, or other car maintenance costs. Think about rules you want to set, such as how many people are allowed in the car. Make sure they are aware of your expectations before handing them the keys in the morning on the first day of school.
Even if you’re waiting to take advantage of the no-tax holiday, you may not wish to wait to purchase some items at the last second, like certain clothing or shoes. Because your child will be the one wearing the clothes and shoes at school, it makes sense that they participate in the search and have a say. Regardless of whether uniforms are required or not, double check the school’s dress code and find clothing that meets those standards. If you encounter pushback from your child about the dress code, help them find something to their taste that doesn’t violate the rules. Allow your child to express their personality and style through their clothing, while still respecting others and the school.
Younger students may still struggle with memorizing their address or parents’ phone numbers. In case they forgot something important at home or need to contact you for any reason, make sure your child has your number and other crucial contact information either saved in their own phone or attached to their backpack on a tag—or both.
If and when you meet your child’s teacher, realize that you are on the same side. They want the same things you do: for your child to learn, succeed, and grow. Collaborate as a team. If you feel the need, contact the teacher and explain any concerns you have about your child. In turn, talk and listen to their teacher during the school year. If a behavioral or educational issue arises, discuss it with your child and work with the teacher to address it head on in the best possible way. Again, remember you’re on the same team.
Many schools host open houses for students to meet the teachers. Take a tour of the campus. If your child is just starting junior high or high school, changing classes can be intimidating. For children in these grades, discuss how they can avoid being tardy. If your child takes the bus, ensure they know which one to take and where to catch it. Or show them where you plan to pick them up. Remind them that they can ask an adult for directions should they get lost.
Especially if your child is starting at a new school, making friends can be a huge concern for both of you. However, even if they are already seasoned students at their school, they will likely interact with new people each year. All children can be reminded to be kind to others, avoid gossiping, fighting, and bullying, and respect their teachers and fellow students. Help them feel excited to expand their friendship circles and realize that new, different people and changes can bring fun, rewarding, and exciting experiences.
At the beginning of the school year, it can be useful to identify goals your child wants to achieve. Help them aim high but be smart about their goals. They can shoot for the stars, but that means they need to build a rocket to get there, which takes effort and time. Whether it’s submitting all college applications by a certain date, earning a specific GPA, reading a certain number of books every month, or practicing to make the basketball team, children—and adults alike—can learn better time management when working toward a goal they care about. Think about setting your own, so you can work alongside your child. One tip for success is to have reminders posted throughout the house or set up on their phones to help them remember to spend time on accomplishing their goals every day. And, of course, track their progress and have a reward system, so you can celebrate their hard work.
As summer comes to a close, take time to talk with your child about possible scenarios they could face in the coming school year. Try asking them about how they would respond in certain situations. “What would you do if someone asks you to help them cheat? Who can you talk to if you don’t feel safe? What would you do if you see someone getting bullied or if you are being bullied? Who can you ask if you are lost and need directions to your next class? What would you do if I’m late picking you up?”
By Lacey Kupfer Wulf