A new school year requires transitions for children and their parents. Charles "Chuck" Smith, Kansas State University Research and Extension child development specialist, says that the age of the child will influence how parents help kids make the transition.
Attending a parents' night or get-acquainted open house will help the child find his or her classroom, locker, restroom, lunchroom and even try out the playground.
Meeting a child's teacher is important, but Smith also recommends that parents make an appointment to meet with a teacher without the child present to share special needs. Children want to fit in and may be self conscious about special issues, such as allergies or other health issues. Yet a teacher will need to be in the know to pick up on early symptoms.
Parents need to let a child's teacher know they are concerned about education. Parents may want to ask "What can we do to help support our child's education?"
Making an effort to get acquainted with a child's teacher lets a child know that parents are concerned about his or her education and sets the stage for successful interaction at parent-teacher conferences during the year.
Parents may be very involved when their young child is first starting school, but parental involvement and support for education should be ongoing. Children pick up on their parents' interest -- or lack thereof.
By the time a child has reached the third or fourth grade, parents may recognize that he or she is doing well in some areas. Still, with any change, even a seemingly well-adjusted child can be fearful and likely to benefit from parental interest and reassurance. Advancing to the next grade level, making the change to a new school building, or a new teacher can cause anxiety for a child.
Maintaining expectations and structure within the home is important for children. Children typically do better when they know what to expect. Parents should try to maintain a consistent routine, such as fairly regular bedtime hours, time allowed for eating breakfast, and time for the family to come back together in the evening.
Also, Smith advises that if parents want to know how a child's school day went, don't ask: "How was your day?" Asking a direct question can put a child on the spot. Instead, parents might share an interesting or unusual note about their day as an invitation for conversation.
Younger children often will be eager to pipe up about their experiences. Teens, who are protective of their privacy, are more likely to share when doing something else, such as riding along on an errand, preparing a meal, or doing another activity with parents.
It's important for parents to free-up time for homework, to provide a quiet place for children to study, and to be available to answer questions, but not to do the homework. Parents are encouraged to praise effort, rather than grades. If a child balks at doing his homework, he also may learn from accepting the consequences for the failure to do the work. Smith also reminds parents that a child should not be expected to have the same skills and abilities or to get the same grades as his or her siblings.
Other tips for a successful school year:
* Demonstrate lifelong learning. Nurture your own interests and pursue learning activities.
* Reinforce learning outside of the classroom through extracurricular or family activities.
* Maintain a rule that your child will finish homework before moving on to the "fun stuff."
* Study school policies and help your child learn to follow them.
* Model respect for teachers and school administrators to help your child learn how to be courteous and respectful at school.
* Before school starts, begin winding down the summer schedule with regular bed and breakfast times.
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.