Parents of all children start the school year off with anticipation, excitement and possibly a little fear. Many of us are saddened by the fact that are children are getting older and will be leaving our nest before we are ready. Many of us hate to see the summer come to an end and even dread the beginning of a new school year, while others are overjoyed to have their children back in school and for their sanity to return. Although all parents can experience a range of strong emotions during this time, parents of children with special needs or kindergartener feel these experience the most extreme. But despite our feelings about the situation as parents we have the responsibility of making it as easy and joyful as possible. In order to make sure that the process is an easy one, here are several things to keep in mind.
Steps to Starting the New School Year Right:
Before the First Day School Preparations
As with any new activity or event, such as the start of a new school year, preparation is the key. Discuss the upcoming school year with your children despite their “normalness” or their “disability”. All children anticipate the beginning of the new school year, questioning their new teacher, new classroom or building, and new expectations. As parents we must address their worries or concerns, while also providing encouragement and assurance. Along with providing moral support, it is important that your child have the needed supplies by the first day. Teachers often have some sort of “Get to Know ME” assignment and you don’t want your child to start the first day without the adequate supplies to complete their first assignment.
It is equally important that the perfect backpack fitting your child’s needs and personality be purchased as well as the first days outfit. Keep in mind that spending a fortune on clothes is not necessary. I urge you to spend within your budget by going to resale shops, shopping yard sales, and consignment sales in your area. The important thing about a “First Days Outfit” is that it is new to the child, and makes he or she feel good about themselves not how much it cost, or if the tags where still attached. By making the necessary preparations you make sure the child will have an easier transition, it will by make the child feel more self-confident and relaxed within their new environment.
If your child is like mine and needs “extra” preparations, make an appointment with the school for your child to visit his or her classroom. Even if it is the same classroom and school as the previous year. All teachers change their classrooms from year to year and Special Education teachers are no different. By visiting the classroom ahead of time, it will allow your child to take in all the changes before the first day which for Will is VERY IMPORTANT. I would also recommend visiting with the nurse about medications, transportation regarding bus routes, and the lunch schedule. Our entire year was almost ruined because we didn’t know their was any difference in lunch times from one year to the next. For a kid who lives to eat, this was a HUGE deal…
One of the biggest issues I see daily within our schools as well as society is the lack of responsibility that persons take for themselves and their actions. It seems everyone is always blaming other for their behavior, trials and issues on everything but themselves or their lack of judgement, skill, and responsibility. In my opinion this is something that must begin in the home. Below are a few suggestions as to how we as parents can begin to teach our children how to take responsibility for themselves thus creating good habits and character leading to a successful school year.
Steps to Creating School Success
1. Preparing Lunch
If your child takes his or her lunch to school, they should be responsible for either making their lunch or helping you prepare it if not age appropriate. Although many parents choose to do this, it is something that your child can probably easily do for themselves with some guidance. Depending on your morning schedule it can be done the night before. Allowing your child to pick the items to include in their lunch from the choices “you” give them will make sure they will eat. An added bonus to having this responsibility is the independence it will foster within your child to be able to care for their own needs when necessary.
2. Require an appropriate bedtime.
As a former teacher and now specialist within schools, I am amazed at the amount of children who go to bed consistently around midnight. Children of all ages require their sleep in order to function properly and productively. By allowing your child to miss out on their sleep can cause problems throughout adulthood. Sending the child to his/her room at 8:00 with the door closed does not constitute going to sleep and getting rest, it only means they have uninterrupted time for the next several hours to watch TV, play Wii, PlayStation, or DS, text, use Instagram, SnapChat, Facetime or Skype. I recommend having a set time depending on the age of child to go to their rooms, and then a “light’s off” time for which a parent goes into the room to assure all technical devices are off and the student is in bed….. Although we all want to trust our children and hope they would never lie or deceive us, they more than likely will at some point. Especially if they feel there is no follow-up and you will never know. With that being said, thirty minutes to an hour AFTER required “lights off” one parent should enter the room to check on child.
3. Transportation of Needed Items
Please do not fall prey to becoming the “rescue” parent. The parent who rides in on his/her white horse to save the day every time your child forgets something…. Occasionally or in an emergency… SURE…. but your child will never take responsibility for their actions or lack thereof if someone is always coming to their aid. Your child should be required to empty out their backpack daily at home, give you notes from teachers, papers to be signed or any other important documents as well as being responsible for returning items back to the teacher and remembering to take their lunch.
4. Writing In Agenda or Communication notebook
If your child’s teacher requires an agenda to be signed, paper work to be completed, or papers to be filled out, sit down with your child and discuss what the teacher has written. Discuss their concerns, praises, or criticisms. If your child isn’t meeting the teachers expectations or yours, request a meeting. You can’t help the situation is you are not abreast of the circumstances or situations. By talking with your child about their day, you can decrease the chances of behavior problems, their becoming a victim of bullying, or becoming delinquent.
5. Make Homework a Priority
Most teachers do not give homework just to have something to grade. More than likely it is given to review an already learned skill, or to practice a new one. During the first week of school a schedule should be implemented regarding your child and his/her homework expectations. Some parents require homework to be done immediately after school while others allow for some down time first. As the parent, that decision should be yours and based on what works best for your child, your family, and your schedule. The number one issue many students have with homework is failure to return. Your student should have a folder or a safe place to put homework upon completion to return to school to minimize the chances of it getting lost, or forgotten.
5. Encourage your student to make new friends.
Every relationship starts with a hello. Encourage your child to be the friendly one, greeting each classmate with a hello and a smile. As the parent, ask them about their classmates, their teachers, and other staff. Discuss with them ways to initiate conversations and interactions amongst their peers and adults, even role playing with them if necessary.
6. Asking for help
Sometimes as parents we get so caught up in our own busy worlds that it is easier and less of a hassle to provide the answer or complete the tasks ourselves. Again, let me encourage you to do what is best for your child instead of what is easiest. Instead of providing needed materials or answers to your child immediately, suggest to them where they may find them or themselves. This route will allow your child the opportunity to learn how to advocate for himself/herself. If your student does not learn these skills and becomes unsure of what to do in a classroom and how to ask for help, their behaviors will most likely be seen as a negative behavior. As parents encourage your child with the old saying, “No question is stupid except for the ones that aren’t asked.” In order for your child to become comfortable with asking questions, set up situations at home and role play allowing the child to request assistance. If your child finds this difficult, model ways that they can ask for help.
7. Set Realistic Expectations
We all have great hopes for our children. We want them to go to college, get a great job, get married, have two kids and live in a house with a white picket fence and a dog in the yard. But as some of us know, that may or may not be the way life pans out. As parents be encouraging, believe that your child can be anything but don’t exaggerate their capabilities while overlooking their weaknesses or make them live YOUR dream. Too often our children are under so much pressure to excel by making straight A’s, being the best in sports, and the most beautiful or handsome they begin to crumble under the pressure. A large majority of students starting in Kindergarten have anxiety issues related to the expectations they feel placed under. While it is important for them to believe they can have it all, they should never be expected to BE IT ALL. Many of them are so busy meeting our expectations that they fail to have the chance to just be kids…
7. Provide yet Limit Activities
Depending on the age and development of your child the things they enjoy or find interest in may vary. Your child may have interests or hobbies that his/her peers are not interested in or do not find to be worthwhile. Although team sports, athletics, and clubs are important and can teach a wide variety of life skills, your child may find it difficult to develop mutual interests with peers. Some children prefer independent sports such as golf, swimming, or archery. While others prefer the standard sports of baseball, football and basketball. It is very important as parents to not minimize the activities of others, while continuing to make your child feel successful within their chosen activity. Despite the current trends, I would not recommend that your child participate in every activity offered; Although it seems to be considered a requirement by some in order to make your child well rounded. I personally believe it just makes them tired and less likely to achieve in other arenas. However, I am adamant that a child who starts something should be required to finish it. IF your child wants to play baseball and then realizes they don’t like it, or their team is horrible, DO NOT LET THEM QUIT!! Quitting is not a trait that you want to instill in your child. One lesson that must be taught to your child is that they are part of team, and when you are part of a team, you stick it out…. after the season if you never want to play again, fine…. But you will finish out the season, you owe that to yourself, your team mates, and your coaches.
8. Handling Disappointment
Teach your children the art of handling disappointment. Life is not fair…. Your children WILL find that out one day. Don’t let them be overwhelmed and shocked when they discover just how unfair life can be sometimes. Teach them that you don’t always win, you can’t always get your way, and things don’t always go like you wished. Gift giving season is a great time to learn this listen. I am disgusted with our world today and their interpretation of being “fair”. Society believes that in order to not hurt a child’s self esteem we must give them a gift at birthday parties even if it isn’t their birthday. We have tie ballgames because it might cause someone to cry if they lose, and we don’t give trophies are acknowledge winners because we don’t want someone to feel bad. I earnestly believe we are setting our children up for a world of hurt. When they graduate, colleges are not going to accept them just because they don’t want to hurt their feelings or their self esteem. A boss of company isn’t going to hire them for a job because because he doesn’t think it is fair to the other applicants if he doesn’t hire them all. Yet, that is what we are leading our children to believe.