Getting Your Child Ready for School

Back to school, already? Is it really time to prepare for the new routine, the new teacher and new friends, all over again? The beginning of a new year is often a time when both parents and children are nervous and excited. So what’s the best way to get your child and yourself off to a good start?

br>P>"A little thought and planning can make all the difference," says Rosemarie Clark, co-author of The School-Savvy Parent and a teacher herself. Here are a few of her suggestions:

  • Will your child be entering a new school? If so, call to arrange a tour. Note the location of the classrooms, restrooms, cafeteria, library or media center.

    LI>Ease the transition from vacation to school by setting bedtime a little earlier each night. Make it a goal to have your child on a regular bedtime schedule about a week before school begins.

    LI>Some children have trouble leaving home in the morning. To make it smoother, send along a pocket-size token, such as a family picture or a seashell from a beach outing.

    LI>Before you buy any school supplies, call the school office for a list. Teachers take care to list only needed materials that will fit into student desks. Resist the urge to buy extra supplies.

  • Figure out transportation plans well ahead of the start of school. Will your child walk or bike to school? If so, make sure he’s familiar with the route and understands safety rules.

  • If your child will buy breakfast or lunch at school, she will need a secure way to carry money, tickets or a meal card. Many schools keep children’s purchased meal tickets or assign an account code. Check with the school to learn what will work best for your child.

  • Many schools have a dress code. If your child is starting a new school, call the office ahead of time to find out the dress policy.

  • On your calendar, circle your school’s fall open house and make it a point to attend. Open house is a chance for you to meet the teacher and learn about your child’s class. If you can’t be there, call the school to set up a separate appointment.



    P>If setting a schedule for homework is one of your biggest nightmares at the beginning of the year (and what parent does not dread battles over this issue?), Cynthia Whitham, author of The Answer is No; Saying It and Sticking to It, advises parents to first set a fixed time for homework, and decide on a regular place. "Consider a kitchen or dining room table, the center of family life, rather than a desk isolated in the child’s room," she suggests.

    br>P>Your child’s teacher will probably let you know her expectations for homework, but if she doesn’t, find out what they are. How much time should your child be spending? How much help should you be giving?

    "Show interest in your child’s work," Whitham adds. "Ask about projects, give friendly comments, and post long-term assignments on the refrigerator. And always focus on what is correct in your child’s work, rather than what is wrong."

    On the First Day

    Whether the idea of going back to school sends shivers of excitement down your child’s spine or tremors of fear, your response as a parent will set the tone for your youngster.

    "If you are upbeat and positive, your children will pick that up," explains Whitham. "On the other hand, if you show hesitation or anxiety about school, you are giving them the message that they too should be fearful. Give your child an opportunity to approach school in a positive manner."

    Trust your child. Trust your teacher. Stay involved. Expect your child’s year to be full of days that are up, days that are down, and others that are in-between. And have a great year!

    Related information:

    For First-Timers



  • The Answer is No; Saying It and Sticking to It, by Cynthia Whitham, Perspective Publishing, 1994.

  • Beyond the Bus Stop, by Robert Weymuller Jr., Heinemann, 1999.

  • The School-Savvy Parent, by Rosemarie Clark, Donna Hawkins, Beth Vachon, Free Spirit, 1999.

  • Sue Lee Starts School, by Lawrence Balter, Ph.D., Barrons, 1991.

  • Working Parents Can Raise Smart Kids, by John E. Beaulieu and Alex Granzin, Parkland Press, 1999.

    For First-Timers

    For children entering kindergarten, Lawrence Balter, a professor of applied psychology at New York University’s School of Education and author of Sue Lee Starts School, says kids will get off to a better start if their parents help them get ready for school. Here are some of the ways you can help your school-bound child:

  • Concentrate on language development through singing, talking and word games.

  • Read books about school and have beginners talk about school with older siblings and neighborhood kids.

  • Introduce some "school-type" activities at home, such as story time, snack time and rest time.

  • Allow your child to experiment with paints, crayons, chalks and pencils.

  • For coordination, provide children with cutting and pasting activities at home.

  • Help your child separate from you by providing opportunities to stay with friends or relatives.

  • Encourage your child to make decisions to promote independent thinking and problem-solving.

  • Because success in school comes from following directions, create activities that encourage adherence to rules.

  • Be sure that toilet skills are mastered.

  • Getting along with others is very important and requires practice; arrange play dates, play groups and other activities that hone social skills.

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