The sound of the pencil sharpener, the smell of books and the sight of new clothes send a clear message: school is in full swing. A new school year can offer the fun and excitement that comes with learning. School provides discovery, new friends, and personal growth for your child. Parents can set the stage for a successful school experience for their youngster by using a few common sense strategies.
1. Have a positive attitude toward learning. Encourage your child to do well and expect the best. Participate in educational opportunities through the community or at the library. Make a commitment to purchase "educational" gifts and books for special occasions. Set a good example, read a book, or take a class.
2. Support the school. Make a commitment to have one parent-teacher conference every month in person. Write, text, or email your child's teacher and comment on specific classroom activities. Volunteer your time or resources to help at school. You may have items at home or at work that the school could use for projects, so remember, "one man's trash is another man's treasure." Enforce the school's rules and policies at home. Speak highly of the school, the teachers, education and the joy of learning.
3. Be prepared. Make it easy for your child to handle all of the "nuts and bolts" of getting ready for school each day. Have adequate school supplies and buy items ahead for future use. Prepay for school lunches whenever possible. Select an outfit for each day at the beginning of the week and keep 'school clothes' in a separate place. Establish a drop off spot for books, backpacks, lunch boxes and so on. Use a large envelope with the child's name on it to keep correspondence and school notices handy. Promptly respond to requests from the school or teacher for permission slips, field trip money and similar items.
4. Have routines. Set up a daily schedule for routines for bathing, eating, dressing, homework and play time. Keep distractions to a minimum; regulate and put time limits on telephone, television, radio, computer time and electronic devices.
5. Schedule learning time. Set aside a minimum of 30 minutes each day for educational activities. This may include completing assigned homework or practicing skills that the teacher has sent home. Use workbooks or learning activities, like crossword puzzles, cards or board games, which encourage logic, decision-making and problem solving. During learning time, do not allow phone calls, television, computers, electronics or visits from friends.
6. Create a star! Find something that your child likes and does well and let him or her "show off" a bit. Encourage fun and the pleasure of having a good time in a positive way. Give your child the message that it is okay to read a book, draw funny pictures, play an instrument, plant a garden, groom a pet, collect stamps or learn about motorcycles. Find a way to showcase his or her talents, perhaps at a senior center or with an elderly relative or neighbor. Children need to "sparkle and shine!"
These are just a few things parents can do to help their youngsters. The goal is to enjoy and maintain an interest in school related activities and learning in general.
Dr. Valerie Allen is a child psychologist in private practice. She presents seminars for parents and professionals in the field of child development and has published two children's books, "Summer School for Smarties" and "Bad Hair, Good Hat, New Friends." Oh yes, she has also raised six children!