Preparing for Back-to-School: A Christian Counselor’s Guide for Parents
The first day of school is always bittersweet for me. As much as I will miss the lazy days of summer with my children, I also look forward to having a little more structure and routine. With that transition usually comes stress for the whole family. The good news is that there are helpful ways to make the transition a bit easier. In this article I look at six of these ways.
Re-Establish School RoutinesTo avoid the early morning mayhem, consider re-establishing school routines early. You can do this by getting back onto a school-year schedule. Gradually reintroduce early bedtimes and wake up times. Practice bedtime and morning routines that include getting dressed, personal hygiene, and meals. Do some school shopping in advance to beat the last-minute rush and empty store shelves. You can also establish school routines by keeping your child learning during the summer. Trips to the library and afternoon read-a-louds are important. You may find it helpful to brush up on math and writing skills as the first day of school approaches. Make it fun for your child so that he or she will understand that this transition can be exciting.
A home with an enriched environment conducive to learning sends a message to your children that learning is important. So get organized and create a space in which your child can do his or her homework. Clean out the old school supplies and create a “new” space for school supplies, including lunchboxes, shoes, and backpacks. Again, consider getting school supplies in advance so that you can begin to organize early. Have a place for a family calendar so everyone is aware of important dates. Many parents start a filing system for each child to help store important flyers and information. There are innumerable ways of getting and staying organized during the school year. Be creative. Make it fun and get the entire family involved. But allow yourself the flexibility to change as you go. Each family is different, so your unique organizational system will evolve based on the needs and routines of your own family.
Nurture Independence and Responsibility
Nurturing independence and responsibility is a very important aspect of parenting. Don’t wait to give responsibilities to a child who is at a “responsible age.” Instead, you should gradually give your children more and more responsibility as they grow, although responsibilities should be age appropriate. An example would be to give a toddler the responsibility of bringing mommy a diaper for the baby. Teach younger children to dress themselves, starting from around the age of three to five. Give older kids after-school responsibilities, such as unloading the dishwasher, taking out the trash, or folding and putting away the laundry. When a child has responsibilities, this will create a sense of independence within that child. Remember that homework is another way to practice responsibility and independence. Train and encourage a child to be diligent in his or her school responsibilities.
Planning ahead will help to make the back-to-school transition easier. Make sure you have an “after-school plan” before the first day of school starts. How will your child get home? What activities will he or she be involved in? Will your child need after-school care? You will also need to have a plan for sick days. Who will stay home with the child? Consider recruiting a supportive family member, nanny, or babysitter ahead of time so that you can have a list of “on-call” help. Most schools have policies for reporting sick days, so educate yourself on these school procedures as well.
Getting involved in your child’s school will not only benefit your child, it will also benefit you. You can both get involved and ease yourselves back into the school year by getting reacquainted with old friends. Have a play-date or BBQ with a school friend and their family. Plan to attend back-to-school orientation or parents’ night. Talk to teachers and school staff and listen to their goals and what they hope to accomplish during the year. Become aware of the school’s schedule and activities and stay involved as the year progresses.
Make it a Family Thing
Back-to-school is more fun when you include the whole family. You can build community and create a sense of excitement by planning together. Get everyone involved by asking for each family member’s input. Post a family calendar in a prominent location in your home to visually track all the family events in one place. Most importantly, make sure that you are spending quality time together as a family. Protect your evenings and weekends. Encourage perseverance over the course of the school year by watching as key milestones approach on the calendar and by celebrating accomplishments together as a family.
A Christian Counselor Can Provide Extra Support in a Time of Transition
Sometimes a child or parent will experience fear and worry as they transition back into the school year. If you feel that either you or your child needs help adjusting to the new school year, it may help to speak to a trained Christian counselor. I would be happy to assist you and your family in making this a great school year.
Provided by Flickr CreativeCommon: “School Supplies,” courtesy of Steven Depolo, (CC BY 2.0); and “05062014 ED Goes Back To School,” courtesy of the US Department of Education, (CC BY 2.0)