After the excitement, nervousness, and activity of starting a new school year have settled down, you can make the most of this time to create a strong foundation that can help your child continue to have a successful school experience. Your child is still taking his cues from you; if you continue to remain calm, reassuring, optimistic, and supportive, your child will feel both confident and competent.
It is important to remember that even though your child may have been in school now for a week or two, he may still experience separation anxiety – and so can you as parents. Therefore, it is so important for you to take the lead and parent – not burdening their children with their own anxieties. Be honest with your child, talk to him about his fears, and listen with empathy. Children will tell you everything.
- Don’t over program your child with activities. Allow him time for homework, and allow free time to play and work off steam.
- Maintain open lines of communication with your child’s teacher, the school nurse, the guidance counselor, and the principal. Show both your interest and your goodwill. Tell them of any concerns you have in regard to your child’s health, and keep in regular contact with them regarding any learning problems your child may have.
- Send your child to school with a picture of you and your spouse or family picture – including siblings. This can be a touchstone that they can reach for when feeling uncomfortable or insecure.
- Stick to a consistent routine, especially with your child’s bedtime schedule to ensure that your child gets at least ten hours of sleep at night. As an adult, we know how cranky we get when we are tired, and so do our children. Remember that they don’t have our coping skills.
- Be reliable; be on time throughout the school year. It is important to take your child to school in the morning on time, and that means having a good breakfast, a good visit and no rushing. Be there at the end of school on time each day, so that he can count on you to show up when you say you will. This builds self-actualization in your child. If he can count on you, he will count on themselves and he will learn to trust others.
- Safety first is a very important part of your child’s school year, including teaching your child the proper way in advance to deal with bullies by reporting them to either a teacher or counselor. You want your child to know traffic safety, as well as physical safety. That means to partner with your neighbors and the school to give age-appropriate and balanced information to your child about strangers and how to protect himself. A young child should know his name, how to spell it, your home telephone number and the number of a safe and responsible adult that is designated by you and your partner.
- Talk with your child about his feelings and invite him to participate in a conversation that gives him some sense of control. Never embarrass, discount or demean your child’s feelings. Ask him what things you can do, and your child can do, to make his time at school a pleasant experience throughout the year. This is called the empathic process, and if you invest your child in the discussion, they are more likely to follow a smooth outcome and go happily to school.
It is important to be honest with your child and tell him you that you miss him when he’s at school, too, but that you look forward to your daily talks to hear about his new and exciting experiences. Be empathetic, be compassionate, and be firm. Nurture your child, meet his needs, and be reliable. You can’t spoil your child with love.