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Beyond the Book bag - Get ready for school the right way

Buying a backpack and stocking it with freshly sharpened pencils and brand new books is one of the ways to get kids ready for school. There are, however, other useful tools parents can provide their kids that go far beyond school supplies in a book bag.

The start of school brings social and emotional pressures that present enormous challenges for kids. Even the most capable, self-assured children approach a new year with worries. Will they make new friends and keep the old friends? Will they measure up to what's expected in academics and extracurricular activities? What if they can't find the new classroom? What if they disappoint their parents or teachers? How will they sit still at their desks after a summer of freedom?

Even when returning to a familiar school, the first weeks back are a bit like starting a brand new job for an adult. Children are learning to rely on themselves, and they can use some help from the caring adults in their lives.

Here are two ways to help your child adjust to being back in school:

Establish a daily ritual

The routines and rituals of family life are very reassuring to kids. These patterns help to create a sense of stability. Use rituals to create a predictable emotional connection as kids leave for school and return home. If you drop your child off in a carpool line, maybe the ritual could be unhooking the child's seatbelt and offering each other a "high five." Or, a simple kiss on the nose as your child heads out the door. If you walk your child into school, at the classroom door say, "1-2-3 Bye!" and then leave. Get your child to participate in creating the ritual. Stick with it, even if your kids say, "Oh, Dad," and roll their eyes. This is the kind of routine your kids will secretly love!

Set aside time to talk about friendship

Start by asking what your child values in a friend, then write down the qualities. If your child has trouble coming up with ideas, suggest some - friends who are nice, funny, fair, play sports - and the child can prioritize them. Then have your child come up with a list of qualities they don't want in a friend - friends who are mean, disloyal, bullies. You can help by asking them to complete this sentence: "do not want friends who..." Talk about keeping these lists in mind when picking friends at school. Remind them to play with kids who match their friendship priorities, as opposed to the kids who seem popular.

Hope you and yours have a happy, healthy school year!

 

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