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TIPS FOR PARENTS TO HELP PREPARE KIDS FOR BACK-TO-SCHOOL

Getting kids revved up and prepared for a new year of reading, writing, arithmetic and the daily stresses of school life can be a daunting task, even for the savviest of parents. 

Dr. Rick Capaldi, Ph.D., with nearly 40 years’ experience as a practicing psychotherapist specializing in children, families and adolescents, and co-founder of Outreach Concern, an Orange County-based non-profit in-school counseling program, has provided parents with  tips to make transitioning back to school more successful for them and their children—and to get the new school year going on the right track. 

“Back-to-school is a time of year when parents rejoice, but when children often dread,” said Dr. Capaldi, “It’s back to the grind, with backpacks, carpools, homework, teacher conferences, report cards and sometimes more.  Most kids don’t look to summer’s end and what follows any more favorably than their parents did when they were children. Following some basic, although not-so-simple tips, can help parents assist their children with the transition and set up a year of success.” 

According to Dr. Capaldi, parents can apply the following suggestions, which are designed to have a positive influence on a child’s success throughout the school year:  

Recognize that back-to-school is not exciting. Parents must understand that back-to-school for many children is stressful and not much different than when they were young.  Entering a new grade or school with different teachers and the thought of more homework, coupled with the pressures of getting good grades while trying to fit in or avoid being bullied, are some of the many issues that impact how students view themselves and their attitudes toward school.  Some children have great coping skills while others feel pressured, anxious and frightened, causing them to return to school with negative perceptions. Establishing an environment where a child can share their feelings in a non-judgmental atmosphere makes going back-to-school a little easier. 

Practice readiness training now.  Success in readiness training is teaching a child how to be a student before they actually become one.  It provides the child with the ability to walk into a classroom feeling positive, ready to participate in the learning process.  This is accomplished by parents continuing to develop a child’s physical, social and emotional wellbeing, setting boundaries, eliminating inappropriate behaviors, teaching respect and courtesy for others, while establishing a healthy atmosphere for learning before a child enters the classroom.  The end result is a child who looks forward to school. 

Be prepared.  Parents are not only responsible for equipping their children with backpacks, pencils and perhaps even iPads, but more importantly, they’re responsible for managing and monitoring their child’s actions and behaviors.  Don’t expect teachers or administrators to “parent” a child.  Establish clear and reasonable expectations before a child enters the classroom when it comes to academic, behavioral, social and emotional positions. Be proactive, establish relationships with a child’s teachers, attend all back-to-school nights, attend parent-teacher meetings fully prepared, respond to teachers immediately, and establish a partnership where parent, student and teachers are held accountable for a child’s success. 

Help with organization.  Kids do not need technology to be organized. A simple solution for children is the red/blue manila folder system.  Explain that the red folder is for all school assignments that need to come home each day, such as worksheets, handouts and written assignments. When homework time rolls around, ask for the red folder, which should be full of assignments. Once assignments are completed, they are put in the blue folder, which the student brings to school the next day along with the emptied red folder.  This method works well if managed properly by the parents. 

Do your homework, too.  Parents are in charge of a child’s homework, not the actual student or teacher.  Homework becomes a problem when a parent refuses to manage it.  Find out everything about homework from the teacher.  Set expectations with the child in advance, establish and stick to an appropriate homework regiment.  Review all homework before after it is completed.  Don’t be afraid to micro-manage the process, particularly if a child isn’t a “homework self-starter.”  With young children or a child who doesn’t follow through with homework independently, control the process, utilize the kitchen table as a place where everyone does their homework.  Parents here can provide close and immediate supervision and keep distractions to a minimum.  Remember, if a child is in school, so are the parents each and every day. 

Get professional help if needed.  There’s no stigma attached to seeking professional help for a child with a behavioral, emotional or academic problem.  Sometimes behavioral and educational problems can be solved with a helpful ear, close direction and support.  However, in many cases, there’s the need to incorporate experts to help direct and support a child’s success when their actions, behavior and emotions dictate support beyond what a parent can provide.  Professional engagement needs to be a part of a child’s educational career when his or her performance is hampered by issues, concerns, or circumstances that impact their success.  Not responding to the special needs of students keeps children behind and underperforming, often establishing a negative view of school and their place in it. 

Provide leadership. This is one of the most important tips for parents.  Parental leadership is about driving student performance and success, without it the rest is useless.  School success is based on responsible parental expectations, providing direction and monitoring behavior. Support demonstrates results.  

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