I can't believe it is already time to go back to school. The stores are buzzing with parents and kids (young and college-aged) reading supply lists, choosing new backpacks, selecting the best sheets for the dorm room, and grabbing deals on folders, crayons, pens, and notebooks. The other day while shopping in a popular retail store, I overheard several parents complaining about their childs' teachers, schools, and communicating feeling "bad for kids these days."
One of my goals in sharing this piece with you today is to help stop this cycle of negative feelings about school and to help support kids, young adults and families have a smooth, successful, and happy transition back to school. If you are a college student (or soon to be college student), I hope to also provide some strategies for a great transition back.
Here are some strategies for kids transitioning back to school:
Work With, Not Against, Your Child's Teacher
It is easy to get wrapped up in negativity when hearing other parents complain about their child's experience. Give the teacher and school a chance to get to know your child and family while you learn about them. Ask questions, attend any Meet the Teacher Nights that are offered, and learn about the structure of your child's day, classroom expectations, rules, supplies, etc. It is also helpful to get the contact information for your child's teacher so you can have open communication with them. Be patient when waiting for responses. You are trying to get to know one or two staff members while they are working on getting to know 20-30 kids and families.
Understand Goodness of Fit
The fit between a child and teacher is very important to consider and evaluate, as it affects the success of your child in school. Listen to your child when they tell you about their school day. Read the homework assignments. Ask about classroom behavior modification systems. Observe any behavior changes in your child. Communicate any helpful strategies that have worked in the past for your child with the new teacher. For example, let the teacher know if your child is more successful with writing assignments when there are lines on the paper or if your child responds well to reinforcement or taking breaks. The best way to do this is to establish a desire to have open and consistent communication with the teacher early on.
Utilize the Team
School should be a positive place for your child. There are a number of people on your child's team who are available in the building to help make the experience great. These team members include the teacher(s) and any other classroom staff, the school psychologist and/or social worker, nurse, and principal. The team also includes you (the parent) and the child (depending on age). If your child receives special education services, the team may also include a speech therapist, occupational therapist, or physical therapist. Everyone benefits from working together. Utilize team members when needed, as everyone presents their own unique role and area of expertise. Problems can be solved by communicating openly with team members.
For college students:
Know Your Schedule
Make sure you access your schedule prior to the semester starting and classes beginning. Double check any room changes, class cancelations, or professor changes. You will have a limited time frame once the semester starts to make changes to your classes, so be sure to attend all classes and confirm they are the right day/time/course for you.
Parents: Support and Encourage But Don't Hover
You have a young adult now. Let him/her explore the new life of college. Educate them about safety, health, and any concerns you have as a parent. Students- you are going to have more independence than ever before, especially if you are living on campus. Seek support when needed and enjoy this added responsibility and privilege. Let your family know if you need more or less from them.
Get to know at least one other student in each of your classes. They could be a great support for you. Having the contact information of at least one other student can be a lifesaver if you need to miss class for any reason, don't understand an assignment, or want a study buddy. A note of caution- the most accurate information will always come directly from the professor. Therefore, be sure to always communicate absences as soon as you can to the professor and confirm you have correct information for what you missed. In addition, most colleges have plenty of resources available for free to students. These include a counseling center, tutoring center, professor office hours, library, computers, financial aid office, and more. Information for these can usually be found on the college's website or class syllabi.
School, no matter at what age, should be fun. Practice mindfulness, try new experiences, communicate openly with teachers and professors, make new friends, join clubs, and get support when needed.
There are plenty of resources available at schools and in the community. You can research the website of the district or campus, visit the local library, or do simple online searches. In my practice, I provide services for parents, such as the online Behavior Management Group as well as services for college students, such as the online College Suite. I also work directly with schools using a School Consultation Model to support children and teachers in the classroom.