- 1. Communication- What happened last year that left your kiddo feeling icky? Was it grades? Peer pressure? High levels of stress? Ask your child what their goals are for this year. Listen without judgement. Then, ask your child what steps they can take to achieve these goals. For example, if your child was in trouble for talking in class last year, ask them to brainstorm ideas to keep them out of trouble this year. Some common suggestions my kiddos make include: moving to the front of the class, sitting apart from friends, and trying harder to focus. The first two are concrete plans of action your child can take. Trying harder to focus is not as concrete. You may have to dig a little deeper and ask, “What was it that didn’t allow you to focus last year?” The goal is to have your child come up with ideas that are concise plans of action they act on and you can measure.
- Advocacy- When your child receives their teacher assignment, have them find their teacher’s email on the school website and draft an introduction email. It is surprising how many students (even in high school) do not know how to email their teachers. This activity teaches them how to find their teachers email, write a proper email, and learn self-advocacy. This is also a great skill for shy students to master. They may not feel confident enough to speak to the teacher in front of the class. Take the pressure off your child by teaching them to communicate by email.
- Independence- It can be hard to let our children be independent because we like to take care of them. However, it is important for your child’s brain to start learning to fend for themselves. Something as simple as putting your child in charge of packing their lunch each day can start the path to independence. Make sure that you set some parameters unless you want your child to pack a lunch bag filled with Oreos. They should also be responsible for packing their bag and checking it each night. What do we do if they forget their lunch, bag or homework? Your initial inclination may be to run their bag to school or email their teacher. Instead, let your child figure out the solution. It might be asking the lunch line for a loan, sharing food with a friend or emailing the teacher to ask for an extension. Let your child figure out the solution and then plan for success next time.
- Rules- Have a family meeting to discuss any rules before the start of the school year. What are the rules surrounding the phone and technology? Will your child be able to keep their phone nearby at homework time (cough -bad idea- cough)? Will you have access to their text messages? What are your rules surrounding friends? Do you need to talk to the parents or meet the friend? Setting the rules in advance means no surprise or anger when faced with a new social situation (OK, there may still be some anger). Remember, you can always relax rules if your child demonstrates responsibility. It is harder to apply strict rules once your child has a taste of freedom.
- Sleep- A week or two before the school year starts, have your child get into the school routine. Dial back on the 11pm bedtimes and settle into a routine. Would you rather start the fight when school isn’t in session or when you are in high stress mode?
The best tip for a healthy and happy school year is planning in advance. Once the year starts and you are in go mode, it’s too late. Having a family meeting during summer break will lead to less stress when the school year starts. Happy planning and let the countdown to school begin!