Simple changes that will make life easier for everyone
Going back to school is tough for most kids—it’s a sudden blast of social anxiety, new responsibilities, and unfamiliar territory that hit all at once, and can leave both parents and kids feeling a little shell-shocked. Here are some ways you can make the transition more pleasant, and help your kids do better in school.
1. Identify your child’s learning style
Not all kids speak the same learning language—and that creates a monumental challenge for teachers, who have to learn how to reach dozens of kids with unique and sometimes incompatible learning styles. Parents can make this task much simpler by working to identify how their children learn best, and shoring up the teacher’s efforts at home. Parents armed with that understanding can change the way they handle homework, help kids study more effectively, and identify when it’s time to schedule a parent-teacher conference.
2. Maintain consistency and responsibility
The kids who struggle the most with returning to school are the ones who have the fewest responsibilities and rules at home. The timetables and assignments that school brings can be overwhelming to a child who hasn’t had opportunities to practice accountability, or whose home environment isn’t consistent. Kids who have chores, schedules, and responsibilities at home will adapt to the rigors of school much more readily.
3. Create social opportunities now
Especially for teens and pre-teens, the social pressure of school overwhelms almost every other consideration. Kids who have difficulty making friends can find the first week of school almost paralyzing—where will I sit at lunch? How will I deal with a classroom full of unfamiliar faces?
Parents can help by getting to know neighbors whose children will be in the same classes, and creating opportunities for kids to get to know each other too. This type of arrangement can be a little awkward, but you can make it easier by being aware of your child’s personality and learning type, and creating situations where they’ll be more comfortable.
4. Talk about back-to-school fears
Without grown-up tools to handle and express emotion, kids who face the stress and anxiety of going back to school will often become withdrawn or act out. Parents can help guide kids through this process by encouraging kids to talk through their fears. Depending on how your kid best expresses themselves, you might want to provide paints or music to help them get in touch with their feelings—asking them to paint a picture of the first day of school, inviting them to pick a song that they want to hear, or asking them to tell the story of their first day.
In most cases, they’ll express healthy, normal fears about school, but just having a safe place to let them out will make them feel (and behave) much better. And if there are other problems like fear of a particular subject or even bullying, you’ll have more tools to take the necessary action.
5. Keep sleep schedules consistent
Sleep is probably the most underrated element in school success, and the first couple weeks of school are a challenge for millions of kids who don’t have a good sleep schedule during the summer. The first month of school is critical for building healthy relationships with schoolmates and teachers, as well as retaining essential information—but kids who are still experiencing a summer “hangover” won’t be able to do their best. By starting the adjustment to school-year sleep schedules now, parents can give kids a huge leg-up as they start classes.
Mike Freiberg is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a resource for stay-at-home dads, work-at-home dads, and everything in between. He’s a handyman, an amateur astronomer, and a tech junkie, who loves being home with his two kids. He lives in Austin.