Getting in Gear- How to Mentally Prepare for the School Year
The first day of school is quickly approaching..
I know. I can't believe it either. It feels like summer break just started, but now Target has all of it's school supplies in our faces. The brightly colored notebooks and erasers are making it a little hard to ignore the upcoming meet the teacher nights and orientations. If you have been ignoring the start of school, its okay...so have I...but don't tell anyone!
So we have already established that we are pretending this whole back-to-school thing isn't happening. Here's the thing though..the sooner we prepare ourselves for the school year the sooner we can prepare our kids. So let's try it together..say it with me.."School will start soon. The first day of school is coming.".
I know that what we just said makes some people want to run screaming. Summer may feel like a giant Godzilla lurking slowly towards you...kinda like this...
It's okay, we will get through this together!
In order to get ready for this school year and make it as easy as possible we have to mentally prepare ourselves and our kids for what is coming. I like this because it does not require having to leave where I am sitting!
Lets jump over some mental hurdles together. Once we get the ball rolling and think through some important issues and questions, the more prepared everyone will be for the upcoming school year..and maybe even a little excited?
1. Acknowledge what was difficult last year, and make a plan for this year.
Every school year has unique challenges, but some difficult things resurface every year. If you or your child have something that always seems to be difficult, make a plan for it. If last year was particularly difficult, try not to get overwhelmed with all the details. Think in big picture issues such as homework, behavior, morning routine ect..
I have had many students who have trouble turning in their homework every school year. For these students I have the child and the parent think about where the issue really lies. Is it that the homework isn't getting done? Is it that the student is forgetting to turn it in? Is it that the homework gets lost between home and school or vice versa? After pinpointing the issue(s) leading to homework not getting turned in I encourage the student and parent to make a plan for how the issue can be resolved. If the issue is that the student is forgetting to turn in their homework they can use a laminated checklist as they walk in to class every day to remind them to turn in assignments or work with the teacher to set up a good reminder system.
2. Think about what is going to be exciting, new, or fun about the upcoming school year.
Every new school year brings new milestones. Think about the fun things that are to come and talk about them with your child. Maybe this year your child will put on a play, get to walk to class on their own, do more at field day or learn a new fun subject. Thinking about all of the fun things to come can get you both looking forward to something as well as ease anxiety.
If your child will be facing a particularly difficult academic milestone in the coming year, try to talk it up and get excited about the subject with your child. Share stories about how multiplication, fractions or essay writing has been useful in your day to day life to give them context and motivation to face new challenges.
3. Think about questions you might have and write them down.
If you are anything like me, questions pop into your head as you start to mentally prepare yourself. Make sure to brainstorm questions you want/need to ask your child's teacher, the principal or even your child about the upcoming school year. Having your questions brainstormed and sorted out before the onslaught of back-to-school activities can cut down on some stress.
As you go to meet the teacher night, here are some questions I would suggest you consider:
- What is your homework policy?
- Does your class run differently than others? If so, how? (this will help you prepare your child for any unexpected differences)
- What is the best way for me to contact you?
- If my child has a behavioral issue, how do you handle it?
- What supplies do you need for your class? or How can I volunteer my time to the class?
4. Think about last year's routines (morning, after school, evening, Sunday night).
Think about how effective your routines were last year. Even if there was a lack of routine last year, think about how these times of day went. Mentally go through last year's routines and revamp them to be more productive, less stressful or more fun.
If the morning routine left everyone frustrated and stressed, consider moving some morning "work" such as packing backpacks to the evening or after school routine. Move things around in your mind until you are satisfied with the new routine. Rearranging routines doesn't mean things will be perfect, but at least there is a possibility for improvement.
I hope that these four topics got your mind moving towards a great new school year. The more mentally prepared we are the more smoothly things will go! I hope that now instead of feeling like summer is lurking, you feel like dancing with it instead.