They may be dealing with fears about school shootings, concerns about teacher shortages and COVID-related disruptions or the fallout from harmful legislation, like Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill or Stop Woke Act, just to name a few.
And then, of course, there are also the normal jitters that a new school year can bring.
To help make the transition back to the classroom a smoother one, we asked teachers what they wish parents and caregivers would do before the first day of school. (And if your kiddo is already back in school, it’s not too late to address some of these things!) Here’s what they told us:
1. Practice the school routine ahead of time.
“In the weeks before school starts, take time to practice wake-up time, the morning routine that you have at home and school bedtime. This is important because, for some students, the transition to a school schedule can be extremely difficult. Giving them the opportunity to practice the routine allows them to get comfortable, feel the routine in place, and it allows time for your family to discuss or work on any frustrations that may arise before it is time to actually go back to school.” — Tamara, an educator in Colorado and creator behind @ifpencilscouldtalk on Instagram
2. Check in with your child emotionally.
“The first day of school can bring a rollercoaster of emotions, especially if it’s the first day at a new school. Check-in with them about their concerns, feelings, questions and reservations. If they have a concern or question, consider how you can alleviate this before the first day. If you’re unsure of how to do so, reach out for help to other school community members.” — Staci Lamb, a teacher in Maryland and blogger at The Engaging Station
3. Let them know it’s OK to be nervous.
“Before starting school, it’s important for you to make space for their feelings. ALL their feelings. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Help them understand it’s OK to be scared and that their teacher is probably scared, too. This helps them validate their feelings and know that it’s OK to feel however they feel.” — Lindsay Sauer, teacher and creator behind @sweetnsauerfirsties on Instagram
4. Encourage your kid to ask for help when they need it.
“As a high school teacher, I want the parents and guardians of my students to prepare their children mentally. High school can be tough academically, socially, mentally and emotionally. Remind them that you and their teachers are there to support and encourage them. Tell them to always try their best and reach out when they need more help. Explain that their best may look different from day to day as they experience different setbacks and obstacles, but that their best is enough.
Provide them with steps for how to be respectful when they misunderstand something or when something comes up that causes them to struggle. As a teacher, I want nothing more than to see my students succeed and I want to have a strong union with their parents or guardians to support their learning and personal growth.” — Erin Castillo, a teacher in California and creator behind @affirmationsandaccessibility on Instagram
5. Make sure you’re receiving communication from their teachers, school and district.
“Many schools offer multiple means of communication (newsletters, texts, emails, social media, etc). Identify which outlet works best for you to stay up-to-date with what’s happening. Ask about access to parent portals to monitor student grades, attendance, and more. Having this access allows stronger relationships and accountability for everyone to best meet the needs of all students.” — Lamb
6. Explain to your child that the classroom is a community space — and teach them how to be a considerate member.
“Help your student understand that there are home expectations and school expectations and that their teacher may expect them to do something in a way they don’t do at home — or it may be something they are never expected to do at home.
Help explain that the school and the classrooms are community spaces and that communities work together to make sure the space they are in is the very best it can be for everyone in that community.
Practicing picking up after themselves, opening and closing containers and lids independently, dressing and undressing (think socks, shoes, coats, or unbuttoning pants for the restroom), packing and unpacking belongings from a backpack or bag, and asking or advocating for help when they are stuck or confused are all little behaviors that can be practiced at home that will help immensely once their student is in the classroom.” — Vera Ahiyya, a teacher in New York, the creator behind the @thetututeacher on Instagram and author of “KINDergarten”
7. Talk to your kid about good (and bad) social media behavior.
“Students need to be aware of how they use social media as a whole. Things like inappropriate sites and online bullying should be strictly prohibited. Kids need to be aware that whatever they put out there on the internet, it’s there forever. And they must be willing to deal with the consequences that come with such actions.” — Tyrelle Lee, a teacher in North Carolina
8. Have conversations about embracing diversity and inclusivity.
“These conversations can be about different foods people eat, clothing people wear, types of languages people speak, disabilities people have, and especially about understanding skin color, race or ethnicity. If a teachable moment shows itself, whether around race, gender, friendship, emotions, etc. please take the time to invite curious conversations. Encourage your student to be curious about the world we live in, and invite them to embrace all the ways we are diverse and unique!” — Ahiyya
“Help them understand it’s OK to be scared and that their teacher is probably scared, too.”
“In school, students will meet other children from different races, religious beliefs, abilities, genders and sexualities. They will meet students’ families of all kinds, including LGBTQIA+ families. It is important that before school, students have meaningful and accurate conversations with their families and read books that reflect the diversity of our world and our communities. Setting your child up for success means giving them a chance to celebrate and know themselves as well as others so we can continue to work towards more inclusive communities that are safe and loving for all.” — Tamara
9. Celebrate mistakes by framing them as opportunities to learn and grow.
“In my experience, when students make a mistake or don’t know something, it can be a point of deep frustration and cause them to have big, uncomfortable feelings. Spend time before the school year, talking about mistakes and developing the mindset that ‘mistakes are opportunities to grow’ or ‘mistakes mean we have something new to learn’ and celebrate that. This will have to happen consistently throughout the school year and will take time. But the more we are excited about learning opportunities and the more we instill that mistakes are opportunities, we can transfer that to them as well.” — Tamara
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.