“Are you sending your child back in person or online?” This question has been circulating for the past several weeks. With all the mystery surrounding this upcoming school year, many districts are giving parents options. In my school district, parents can choose between completely virtual learning, or two days in person and three online. This two day rotation is probably not what parents had imagined when registering their children for the “in-person” option.
So how do you prepare your child for school when you have no idea what school is even going to look like? How do you get your child ready for a school year like no other? Here are five tips and tricks to help you and your child feel confident on the first day of school whether it is in person or online.
Since March many students have found their routines disrupted. The last two months of the 2019-2020 school year happened asynchronously at times, so students were able to sleep in and take breaks as needed. Then this summer the majority of summer schools and camps were cancelled. With a lack of activities to keep children busy, many have lost their sense of routine.
When school returns this fall, students will be rudely awakened by the need to resume their old routines. If they have not been on a schedule for the past few months, they may have difficulty adjusting back to one.
According to the CDC, over 55% of students do not receive adequate amounts of sleep on school nights. A study comparing sleep schedules in US and Australian students found that children who have a set bedtime are more likely to get enough sleep.
The first way to start preparing your children for school is to get them back to their natural sleep rhythm. Start setting alarms now to wake them up at the time they will have to be up for school come fall, and also set reminders to go to bed on time. According to South Louisiana Medical Associates, you should start by putting your kids to bed 15 minutes earlier and waking them up 15 minutes earlier each day until they are back to their regular schedule.
I remember when I was younger the best part of going back to school was going shopping for supplies. I would get so excited to pick out my binder, folders, and notebooks. And even though this year’s shopping supply list may look different, you should still make a point to let your child pick out their back-to-school supplies.
Getting school supplies can be a way to find some normalcy in an otherwise atypical year. According to Kit Yarrow Ph.D., back to school shopping is important psychologically. The act of shopping for school supplies mentally prepares students and parents for the transition to a new grade level. Taking the time to find the perfect notebook and pencils psychologically signifies moving on to a new year.
Whether you go to the store in person or do some online shopping, make sure to sit down with your child and browse for supplies for the year to come. Maybe you can even find a cute mask for your child to wear.
According to psychiatric counselor Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury, setting goals helps people stay grounded in reality while giving them something to accomplish. Goals also call for self-evaluation and introspection. When your child sets a goal they have to envision what they want and how to get there.
Because so many things are in flux right now, setting a concrete goal with your child will give them something to look forward to. We may not be able to control when we go back to school full-time, but we can control how we interact with learning.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to set goals that are not dependent on outside forces. For example, it would not be reasonable to set the goal “Be back in the school building five days a week,” because your child does not have control over when and how school buildings open. Keep the goals specific, measurable, attainable, and timely (SMART).
Sit down with your child and talk about what they want to accomplish this year, whether in or outside of school. Below is a list of sample goals for students:
By setting goals, you are telling your child that they can control certain aspects of their lives. You are preparing them for a future and giving them something to look forward to even if not everything goes exactly the way they want.
Can we all agree that it’s been a long year? It feels like much longer than two months since May. And kids feel this way as well. Students have been away from standard school structure for a while now, and they may have forgotten much of the material they learned last school year. Jumpstart your child’s learning by having them review concepts from the previous school year.
There are a variety of educational websites and apps that can help your child recall past learning and even give them a head start on next year! Websites like LoonyLearn offer educational games that will refresh your child’s memory and get them excited to learn again. According to research, students should spend 15 minutes per day practicing each reading and math. Thirty minutes a day is all it takes!
If you start having your child spend thirty minutes a day reviewing old material, they will have a much easier time adjusting back to school.
My final piece of advice is to talk openly with your child about expectations for this school year. This year has been traumatic for many students, and they may have expectations for the up-coming school year that are unrealistic, sadly. I suggest taking some time to do something with your child they enjoy, and open the conversation about expectations.
Unsure of how to breach this heavy topic with your child? Here are some questions you may want to ask to prompt a conversation:
Depending on your child’s response, you may have to have hard conversations about what school is going to be like. Let your child know that it is ok to be upset and sad. It is completely natural to feel a sense of loss of this school year even though it hasn’t happened yet. Remind your child that you are there for them no matter what happens, and that you and their teachers want them to succeed.
This year is not going to be comfortable for students, but by taking steps now you can facilitate an easier transition.
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