by Meg Carroll, Early Childhood Education Committee
Because schools have to coordinate the movement of large numbers of people, schools use routines. Many children find these routines comfortable and empowering. Young children love to tell “what comes next” in a typical school day.
That’s why summer, although it’s fun, can also be stressful to some children. The routine is less apparent, so children don’t feel they have control over their experiences. Begin to build toward the school routine early in August, by starting to be consistent about bedtime, perhaps moving it gradually to an earlier, more school-appropriate hour. Get school supplies and records together over the summer; avoid the last-minute flurry that can make children anxious and get them worrying about school.
Worrying about school is something that all children do at least a little. One kind of worry grows out of what other children say about school. If your child is starting kindergarten, taking a bus for the first time, or going to a new school building, he is especially susceptible to reports from others about what to expectand what other children say is rarely encouraging.
Many adults make remarks to children about school, such as, “Oh, I know you are sad; summer is almost over.” or “Too bad you have to go back to school soon.” What these comments tell children is that school is bad and going there is something no one wants to do. Protect your child from only negative things being said about school or counter with accurate, more positive information.
Rick Lavoie advises, in his Last One Picked, First One Picked On video, that parents prepare children for a situation. If your child is just starting school or is changing buildings, go to the school a few times over the summer. Let your child see the building, check out the parking lot, and notice that there are several doors. You might even make an appointment with the school clerk or secretary for a brief tour if that is possible.
Another important part of preparing for school is getting school supplies for your child. Stores sometimes collaborate with schools and have lists for each grade level at each school. Some teachers post supply expectations on school or teacher webpages or send home the list for one school year at the end of the last. Savvy parents put a few dollars away every week so that when school supplies are on sale over the summer, they can purchase most of what they need at reduced price. If you didn’t do that this year, put $2-5/week in a jar and you’ll be ready for next summer.
Anticipate that your child will lose, misplace, use up, or break some of the school supplies you purchase. Buy an extra ruler, set of crayons or markers, and protractor. Have one at home as well as one at school to help with homework completion.
Anticipate chaotic school mornings and work to reduce the chaos. Consider having your child get in the habit of choosing clothes and finding matching headbands, socks or whatever before going to bed. Always lay things out in the same place or it defeats the purpose of saving time and hassles in the morning.
Pre-packing book bags is a good idea too. Whatever homework is not done before bedtime probably isn’t going to get done in the morning either, so pack up homework, supplies for the next day, etc. and put the book bag in the same place every evening.
Mornings may not be the time to have gourmet meals. Breakfast cereals that lack full nutrition but get eaten by “picky eaters” may be better than healthy food that goes untouched. Jumpy stomachs may benefit from a cup of tea. Mint tea may be especially good for soothing mild cramps of anxiety.
If you find yourself chronically cutting it too close, and the wear and tear on your nerves is not worth it or your child is getting in trouble at school, you may have to get up earlier by 15 more minutes or so. Have you seen the video of Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day? Watch the morning “get it together” scene as a family. A little humor can’t hurt.
Children with learning disabilities can be disorganized and struggle to meet time demands. Every step you take to minimize the effect of that disorganization makes your life and his or her life easier.