The school year is fast approaching in Virginia. Whether your child is elementary, middle, or high school age, the first weeks of school can be stressful. But there are things you can do to make the transition from easy summer days to academics and structured activity less painful.
Here are our top 10 tips for back-to-school success:
- Learn the lay of the land: If your child is making a transition to a new school, knowing how to navigate the building can reduce stress and help your child to feel more confident. Take advantage of any opportunity to tour the building, especially after you know your child's schedule. Practice going from class to class more than once and check out other important locations like the cafeteria, main office, library, school nurse, and counselor's offices.
- Plan for lunch: Eating lunch alone can be crushing to a student's self-esteem. Encourage your child to make plans with a school friend for the first week. If they don't know anyone, help your child to practice asking a new classmate if they'd like to sit together at lunch.
- Meet the team: It's well known that teachers' feelings and beliefs about a student affect the student's performance, so try to make a personal connection with anyone who will be working closely with your child. If the school hosts a back-to-school night, don't skip it!
- Find a routine: Children and adults need time to ease back into a structured schedule. Start practicing wake up times and morning routines a few weeks in advance. This will also give you time to troubleshoot rides, work schedules, and lunch plans.
- Review expectations: Once school starts, there will be many things vying for your child's attention, including friends, their smartphone, sports practice, Netflix and, oh yeah, homework. Make sure your child knows the order of those priorities, and which ones must be tended to first.
- Prioritize sleep: Sleep affects your child's mood and ability to concentrate, which in turn affects their learning, so don't leave your child's sleep routine to chance. If you're dealing with a tween or adolescent, he or she may not have the willpower to put away the phone or turn off the TV at a decent hour, so don't put that decision in their hands.
- Have electronics-free times: The research overwhelmingly shows that smartphones in class negatively impact learning. Practice putting electronics away for short periods, and teach your child that it takes effort to focus in order to learn something new.
- Teach growth mindset: Students of all ages should know that the brain is malleable, and that they can improve their abilities with practice and effort. Help them to understand that making mistakes and "failing" is just part of the learning process and don't let them get too entrenched in ideas about what they're "good" and "bad" at.
- Praise effort: Your child may have a natural talent for math or music, but hammering on this may not be the best way to support their growth. Instead of telling your child she is smart, praise her effort, practice, persistence and resilience.
- Teach self-advocacy: If your child has an issue with a peer or teacher, resist the urge to get in there and solve the problem. Help your child to figure out what they need or want to express then let them do it.
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