Parenting is not easy. But it can be very rewarding and fun! While starting a new school year can be exciting for kids, it can also be a time of worry and concern for parents.
Here are some tips for making the new school year a successful one:
1. Organization: Use the energy of a new year to commit to organization. Designate an accessible place for school supplies, bags, coats and lunch boxes. Decide on what clothes are going to be worn the night before. Do what you can the night before to make mornings smoother.
2. Responsibilities: Who will make lunches – mom, dad, or child? Who will look over homework each night? Who will make sure each kid is keeping up with schoolwork? How will your child wake up in the morning – alarm clock or mom/dad?
3. Celebrations: Does your family have a ritual to celebrate the start of the school year? If not, create one! Some families go out for dinner; others go to the pool one last time to celebrate the end of summer vacations. Tell funny stories about when you were in school, and talk about previous teachers and friends.
4. Honesty: If there were problems or difficulties last year, talk about how things can be better. If a certain subject was tricky, encourage your child to check in with you at the first sign of trouble. If behavior was an issue, try and identify the root cause, and ways to prevent the behavior from occurring again.
5. Communication: Keep the doors of communication open with your child and your child’s teacher. Let your son or daughter know that you understand that sometimes school can be tough, and you want to help. Ask them about their classes; get to know what is going on in their lives. They may just grunt when you cheerfully ask “how was your day?” but it lets them know that you care and are interested. Be informed, and advocate for your child if you need to.
School gets tougher and more complicated as children grow older. While kindergarteners may worry about making friends or forgetting their lunch money, teenagers deal with peer pressure, bullying, test anxiety and concerns about their future. They’re also less likely to be open about what is stressing them.
Don’t wait for your child to come to you with their problems – take initiative.
If you notice your child spending more time alone, talk to them about it. If their grades slip, discuss it in a non-judgmental way. Ask about their friends, what pressures they have, what makes them happy.
Be aware of the signs of depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and self-injury. You may never think it could happen to your child, but it could.
All children and young adults need their parents to be involved in their school life. By being open, curious, positive and engaging, your relationship with your child will only grow and thrive.
MA Counseling Psychologist