Many families feel a mix of excitement and apprehension as the new school year approaches. While this means new opportunities to grow, it also means adjusting to a new teacher, and sometimes a new school. Here are four steps experts suggest to start the school year off right.
1. Know the campus. Drive or walk by the school, and point it out to your child. Go to the school’s website, and print a map. Review the map, and role-play walking from one point to another. Contact the administration and request to visit the campus. Consider a fun activity to do on your visit. If the mascot is a pirate, set up a treasure hunt. Bring a map of the campus, and mark special spots as you visit them. Pairing the school with a positive experience like this, can ease nerves and build excitement.
2. Meet the teacher. Contact your administration. If a visit is possible, prepare your child for the meeting and bring something special for your child to give the teacher. Email the teacher in advance to tell her something special to do for your child. For example, if your child loves Star Wars, suggest that the teacher talk about it or bring a related toy or book. If a visit is not possible, try asking the teacher to email your child a picture and a special message that you can read together.
3. Know the rules. Help your child contact positive attention at school. Find out how kids share swings and equipment, what to do when the bell rings, how they transition from lunch to recess, and where they line up. Practice these rules by role-playing at home and on playgrounds. Talk about teamwork and how following the rules is kind to friends. Relate the rules to an interest. If your child loves superheroes, talk about superhero teams and how they stick together and help others.
4. Stay cool and positive. Above all, talk to your child about how much fun they will have. If you’re nervous, find a way to cool down. Your child needs to see that you’re excited about the school year too. If your child expresses that they are nervous, you can say, “I understand, but remember how much fun you have on the playground? What’s your favorite thing to do there?” With you both focusing on positives, your child will be more likely to show up excited and ready to go.
Starting the school year off right is important for you and your child. Although you may feel nervous at first, doing your best to prepare will make a big difference. When your child gives you a hug goodbye and runs off to the playground with a smile, you’ll be glad you put in the work up front.
Author: Colleen Cochran has an M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis. She is also a Board Certified assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA). She has worked in the field for over 8 years, and loves playing a pivotal role in the lives of her clients and families as a behavior specialist at Autism Behavior Services, Inc.