Back to School: A Teacher’s Advice for Parents

With the summer holidays coming to an end and adverts for ‘back to school’ sales an ever-constant reminder that your little ones are starting a new year at school, we sat down with a teacher to get her advice for parents on how best to prepare your little ones for their return to school. Returning to school after the summer holidays can be scary for kids and anxiety-inducing for parents, but there are several things we can do to prepare our kids as best as possible. For kids to get the best out of their school year, both in terms of what they learn and the experiences they have, it’s important for them to start off right so they can finish well.

What are the main ways I can help get my kid ready for going back to school

During the summer holiday, kids can really forget a lot of what they have learnt from the previous year and will not have practiced some of their social and learning skills they have developed steadily in class. This is normal, but it’s also why starting back at school can be difficult for kids because they don’t feel ready. Parents should try to go over some of what the children have learnt in the last year—I don’t mean a review, but something light, easy, and enjoyable you can do with your kid. You can reintroduce them to reading, or read to them, go through their old copybooks and ask them simple questions about what they learnt. This isn’t to test them and don’t worry if they seem to struggle or have forgotten a lot. The point is to steadily and slowly refamiliarise them with what they have learnt and learning skills, so it isn’t a big shock for them when they go back to school. If they feel comfortable and familiar from the get-go with what the teacher will cover them in the first few weeks as a review, they are at a far better standing to start the year off well.

Another way to support your child in getting ready to going back to school has nothing to do with school itself or learning in general—I’m talking about re-establishing a schedule. Getting up and ready for school on time can be challenged for kids and parents alike, so it’s important to try and get used to the early mornings before your kid starts back at school. To do this, you have of course also got to get them used to the idea of going to bed early, which is of course easier said than done. It’s also important to get them used to the idea of tasks again, which they will of course have to do in class and as homework. This can be a fun and bonding activity you do with your kid if you do it creativity, and it’s really important in getting your kid mentally ready for school again.

And for older kids, much of the same applies, but it’s also worth sitting down with your kid and talking about the past year and the one coming to give him or her some perspective. It’s definitely worth trying to get them to think about what they liked about last year and what they didn’t like, and then lead them on to talk about what they want to be different this year and for them to make some goals, however big or small. At the age when they can think about this stuff, getting them to reflect upon their education and life in general is a great way to put them in the driving seat and make the necessary changes for them to lead a happier life and get a better education.

What about getting school supplies and all of that stuff?

Of course, getting everything ready for school in terms of supplies and everything is super important, not just so they have the equipment to learn, but so that the kid feels ready. Mentally speaking, a pencil case with nicely sharpened pencils feels a lot different to one with a few blunt pencils, just like polished shoes will give your kid a little confidence boost. It’s important to get all this stuff organised so your child feels organised. It’s not about getting new items per se, although sometimes this a good idea, but it’s about getting everything organised, ready, and in good shape. Nicely sharpened pencils from the year before in a pencil case are better than new pencils in their plastic packaging stuffed in a school bag. Another thing that is always forgotten is to label everything. I mean everything! Kids lose things and it’s to be expected, so parents have to label everything. Please!

Once my kids are back at school, how can I best help them?

Often the main problem can be trying to help them too much. It’s best to try and not pressure them as much as possible, especially at the beginning. It’s best to not start too strict, so they can develop a not so antagonistic relationship with homework and school. This also goes hand-in-hand with trying to give your children the responsibility for their homework. This can be difficult and is different for different kids, but its worth trying to develop. Overall though, is just talk to them about school and what they have learnt and listen with genuine interest. However, be sure to only use positive questions and don’t try to interrogate them if there’s something they don’t want to answer.

What should I do if I’m worried my kid is being bullied

This can be a really difficult and distressing situation for the kid and their parent. As a parent its very important to reassure them that you have their back whatever. Likewise, it’s also important to tell them that you are always only a phone call away if anything happens and can be there very soon. It’s also important to not let them feel ashamed or that they are in the wrong or somehow deserving of bad treatment. Tell them their rights and reassure them that how they are feeling is a normal response to what they have been suffering. Alongside this, please tell your teacher and try to have a real conversation about what’s happening and how you can stop it. Hoping it goes away or confronting the other parents directly isn’t going to solve anything, and can make it worse. Teachers really do care, we care a lot, and we sometimes don’t see everything that happens at lunchtime or on the bus, so please tell us so that we can try to help your kid.

What if I’m worried my child doesn’t seem to be making any friends?

This is an incredibly common worry that parents have, but don’t worry. We expect children to make loads of friends in the first week or even day of school, but this isn’t usually how it happens. Friendships often take a while to develop, there’s a particular moment when it clicks. Social skills are also something that can take a while to learn. For shy kids, however, it can often be a good idea to enrol them in sports, as this puts the focus away from them and on to the ball, or whatever, and they can form friendships without the pressures they struggle with in the playground for instance. It’s important to be supportive and not pressure them into situations they really don’t want to go into, children learn confidence just like they learn math. You start off with the easy bits and once you’re okay with those, you go on to the harder bits.

What’s the best kind of pack lunch to make for my kid?

The thing I’ve always noticed is that sometimes kids have been given a healthy pack lunch, but it’s just way too big! Kids don’t need a huge amount of food at school, they will be back home soon! Often children eat too much and feel unwell for the second half of the day, or are just too tired as they try to digest several sandwiches. You know your kid better than anyone, really think about how much they normally eat at lunch and don’t give them more than that just because they’re outside the house and the parental and protective instincts kick in.

For the types of foods, try to give them a healthy and balanced lunch and a snack. While a very small sweet something is fine if alongside more healthy foods, its important to avoid sugary foods and drinks. A pack lunch high in sugar basically turns off the kid for the next few hours in terms of learning. Sugar can make them too over-excited, disruptive, and unable to learn.

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