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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Back to school success

Five steps for an easy transition back to school.

Back to school success
It’s back to school time and all across Michigan, children are picking out the perfect backpack, buying new shoes, checking items off of a teacher’s supply list and finding out who is in their new classroom. Going back to school is a fun, exciting and scary time for children. It’s very normal for children to feel anxious about going back to school. They might worry about who will be in their classroom, if their teacher will be friendly, how to find the bathroom and if they might end up on the wrong bus at the end of the day. Michigan State University Extension recommends the following tips for a smooth transition back to school.

1. Talk to your child about their concerns

It can be tempting to brush away children’s concerns about going back to school. Instead, listen actively to their worries and fears. Be reflective in your language, saying back to them what you hear, “You’re worried about getting lost in the hallways,” or “You’re concerned that you won’t have friends in your class.” Acknowledge their fears and take steps to address them. Perhaps going up to school to walk the halls before school starts or finding a friend that is in their class can help them feel more confident that first day.

2. Visit the school

What is familiar is less scary. Many schools have an orientation the week before school starts. These are usually a time for your child to meet their teacher, find their coat hook, desk and cubby, tour the lunchroom, etc. Make sure to save this time on your calendar to attend with your child. Going to school, finding friends in their classroom and meeting their teacher can instill much confidence and help kids be excited for the first day.

3. Plan ahead

Talk through the routine of the day with your child. If you know their schedule, share that information. If your child is being bused, make sure they know the bus number and the routine. Consider writing the bus number in permanent marker on young children’s hands the first few days. Place a slip of paper into their backpack with their bus number, your cell phone number and other contact information. Talk to kids about what to do if you don’t show up for pick up or if you’re not there at the bus stop. Having a contingency plan helps gives children the security that they know what to do when something goes wrong.

4. Read books

There are many great books about going back to school. Reading books is another great way to make school more familiar, less scary and address potential fears and concerns, particularly for incoming kindergartners. Some suggested titles include:
  • “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” by Joseph Slate,
  • “The Night Before Kindergarten” and “The Night Before First Grade” by Natasha Wing,
  • “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn
  • “How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?” by Jane Yolen
  • “Junie B. Jones First Grade at Last” by Barbara Park

5. Get ready together

Many schools send out suggested supply lists, take time with your child to go shopping and pick out their supplies. In many classrooms, these are communal supplies and donated to the class rather than kept in individual pencil boxes, so prepare your child to share if that’s the case. Let them pick out a special backpack and lunch box, new school shoes and the other things that help them feel ready. Be sure they feel comfortable and confident about things like where their classroom is and how to get home at the end of the day.
For most of Michigan’s children, the start of school is just about here. As you’re enjoying the last gasp of summer vacation, take time to be sure your children are comfortable, confident and prepared about their return to school. Have a great school year!