Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Back-to-school mode

Published:Sunday | August 14, 2016 | 8:00 AMJody-Anne Lawrence

Summer is almost over and while our little ones have a few more weeks to enjoy the holidays, maybe it's also time to get back to some routine so that their first day back at school will be a bit easier instead of a big crash.

According to counselling psychologist Andre Allen-Casey, it is important to get children back into school mode because of the transition between home, which is a more social environment, and school, which is structured. That being said, it is important that they get back into a routine before the big day.

"Children need to return to school mode so as to re-establish the demands or changes in school rhythm, for example: preparing school items, preparing one's self for school, and the time for commuting, new routes and requirements," said Allen-Casey. So getting them to wake up a bit earlier as the first day comes closer will enable them to do that more easily when school actually starts.

Outside of the workload and normal routines, parents also need to think about getting themselves sensitised to conflicts that might present themselves during the school year - this ranges from peer pressure to bullying just so that they are emotionally prepared to deal with each circumstance. This prepping should begin at least three weeks before school resumes.

In order to help parents get through the prep for school, Allen-Casey gave Outlook a few tips:

• Good physical and mental health. Be sure your child is physically and mentally healthy. Schedule doctor and dental check-ups early. Discuss any concerns you have over your child's emotional or psychological development with your paediatrician. Your doctor can help determine if your concerns are normal, age-appropriate issues, or require further assessment. Your child will benefit if you can identify and begin addressing a potential issue before school resumes.

• Review all of the information. Evaluate the material sent by the school as soon as it arrives. These packets include important information about your child's teacher, room number, school supply requirements, signing up for after-school sports and activities, school calendar dates, transportation, health and emergency forms, and volunteer opportunities.

• Buy school supplies early. Try to get the supplies as soon as possible, and fill the backpacks a week or two before school starts. Older children can help with this, but make sure they use a checklist that you can review. Some teachers require specific supplies, so save receipts for items that you may need to return later.

• Reinforce your child's ability to cope. If your child is anxious about school, send personal notes in the lunch box or book bag. Children absorb their parent's anxiety, so model optimism and confidence for your child. Let your child know that it is natural to be a little nervous anytime you start something new, but that they will be just fine once he or she becomes familiar with classmates, teachers and school routine.

• Give your child a few strategies to manage a difficult situation on his or her own. But encourage your child to tell you or the teacher if the problem persists. Maintain open lines of communication with the school.

• Reassure your child that the problem will not occur again in the new school year, and that you and the school are working together to prevent further issues.

• Arrange play dates. Try to arrange get-together with some of your child's classmates before school starts and during the first weeks of school to help your child re-establish positive social relationships with peers.

• Plan to volunteer in the classroom. If possible, plan to volunteer in the classroom at least periodically throughout the year. Doing this helps your child understand that school and family life are linked and that you care about the learning experience. Being in the classroom is also a good way to develop a relationship with your child's teachers and classmates, and to get first-hand exposure to the classroom environment and routine that your child faces. Most teachers welcome occasional parent help, even if you cannot volunteer regularly.

jodyanne.lawrence@gleanerjm.com