Updated: Nov 20, 2021
Getting ready for the new school year means more than just back-to-school shopping for backpacks, clothes and school supplies. For many children, this fall will mark the first time that they’re in a 5-day, in-person program since the start of the pandemic. Given this, supporting your child by preparing him or her physically, emotionally and mentally is even more important to reduce back-to-school jitters. As learning consultants, we’ve compiled our tips on how to truly get your child ready.
1. Check off summer assignments
If your child was assigned summer reading or work, revisit what needs to get done ahead of the first day and help create a plan of action to complete it. While some children may want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend assignments don’t exist, help them strategize getting the work completed. Your child will feel much better getting it done than already feeling behind.
2. Preview the school year schedule and new routines
Over the summer, there’s typically much less structure to the day. Before jumping into the school year, it’s important to get your child to sleep in her regular sleep patterns. Otherwise, the first few days or weeks of school could be quite messy.
Previewing the upcoming school schedule and your family’s routine will help your child mentally picture what’s ahead. When students know what to expect, they are better able to handle a transition.
Some children may feel worried and anxious about resuming school in-person — from classroom expectations to social situations. Help them avoid bottling up these emotions by opening up a conversation about how they’re feeling.
For older children and teenagers, review the school’s policies and expectations. While it’s essential to review these when starting at a new school, it can be a helpful reminder at the beginning of any school year so that everyone is starting off on the same page.
3. Set goals for the upcoming year
Regardless of the age of your child, we recommend working together to set goals for the school year. Brainstorm potential goals together and map out a plan to meet those goals. For students involved in our tutoring programs, we write out the goals and make a visual together of how to meet those goals. If the going gets tough, the child has a visual reminder of the goals and how to meet them.
For middle school and high school students, we often take stock of the experience of the previous year when helping them set goals. Goals may include:
● Handing in homework on time
● Meeting deadlines for projects
● Allowing for support and help when you feel overwhelmed
● Trying out a new extracurricular activity
● Becoming more involved in communities service
Rather than focus on grades, keep goals process-focused. If an end goal is suggested, help your child figure out how to achieve that goal. By focusing on the process, rather than a specific outcome, you’re helping your child to develop a growth mindset.
4. Anticipate any early school year challenges
At about the 6–8 week mark, pay close attention to the first progress report and how your child is feeling about school. The October/November timeframe is often when the curricula becomes more challenging as the prior year’s review is over and teachers are diving into new concepts.
If your student has previously experienced challenges during this time, the best thing you can do is plan ahead. Set up a time to check in with the child’s teachers and your child in mid-October.
If your child has had tutoring in the past, lining up tutoring sessions before getting to a point where he or she is struggling can lay the foundation for the rest of the school year. Getting started with tutoring before entering the “I’m drowning” mind frame allows the student and tutor to build a relationship and work ahead toward deadlines. Additionally, when tutoring time is already a part of the school-year schedule, we find that students don’t feel “like they’re missing out” when they previously had a free afternoon to play outside or hang out with friends. Without help in place, your child might feel like giving up and lose confidence.
5. Help your child stay organized
By now, you’ve likely heard the advice to make sure your child has a dedicated space for school items and homework. Make a point of decluttering and prepping the space prior to the start of school.
Despite your best attempts at creating a process and modeling organization, if your child is forgetting homework at school, having trouble following through with a routine or getting started with big projects, he may need help developing executive function (EF) skills.
Executive function deficits are most frequently noticed when kids transition from a single classroom setting to a school in which they have to respond to multiple teachers and class requirements. When EF skills are lacking, not only do grades suffer, but students do too — by feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and anxious. Executive function coaching can help students learn new strategies and build habits. Check out our Executive Function Skills Guide.
The parental pep talk
As a parent, the most important thing that you can do for your child is to be supportive. Listen, help your child feel prepared and find ways to motivate them. Reassure your child that it’s okay to receive support.
Be mindful of your own anxieties as a parent. Children pick up on the anxiety and stress of their parents. Do your best to quell your own anxieties outside of your interactions with your children.
Celebrate small successes, not just the big ones. By doing so, you’ll help keep the positive momentum going this school year.