- Young learners
As we start thinking about returning to school, the big question for teachers and parents is: How can we help our children get off to a smooth start?
After the long break, students might be keen to see their friends again. But it's not always easy to get back into the class routine. It's especially difficult when students are moving into a new class or are facing important exams.
So what can you do to support children in transitioning back to school at the beginning of the academic year?
Here are 4 steps to help them get off to a great start.
1. Be organized and create routines
Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it's not all mixed up. – A. A. Milne
Have a "family meeting" to brainstorm the routines for the school year, e.g., tidying room, getting school clothes/uniform/bag ready the evening before, homework routines, family meal times and exercise. Ensure each member of the family has input into the routine too. Create a chart with the routines so everyone can see what has been agreed upon and how they are being adhered to.
2. Start bedtime routines early
Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. – Benjamin Franklin
Agreeing on firm bedtimes during the school week is very important for everyone in the family.
If children and teenagers do not get enough sleep, it can negatively impact their health and academic achievement. It's important that they are aware of this too.
In an ideal world, we should ensure that adults and children are not exposed to any form of screen time for at least 30 minutes to one hour before bedtime. This will help everyone sleep better.
Start the back-to-school sleep transition gradually. To help your child adjust, move bedtime up by 30 to 60 minutes at a time over the course of a few days or a week before the start of school so the transition from a later bedtime to an earlier one is progressive.
3. Talk about homework and teach organizational skills
When it's obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. – Confucius
Organization needs to be taught and practiced. As children get older, homework usually increases. Take an active interest in your child's homework.
Parents can be supportive by demonstrating organizational skills and helping children with time management. Assist them with creating a plan for their homework and encourage your child (whatever age) to have a study plan of some sort and to set goals for their homework which are SMART:
- Specific – Describe in detail what activities they are going to do.
- Measurable – How will they know when they are progressing/finished?
- Achievable – Do they have the skills and resources to get to their goal?
- Relevant – How does this goal connect to short and long-term targets?
- Time-bound – Set a concrete deadline.
Teach them how to approach homework with a "strategy". How much homework do they have? How long will it take to do it? Prioritize urgent homework and do more difficult things when they are less tired.
Make sure there's adequate space in your house and set up a homework-friendly area that is well lit, and has a table with enough room to put their pens and books. Of course, this is preferably somewhere quiet.
Also, it's important that parents are motivators and monitors and that they try to make themselves available for advice. Always praise children for their work and efforts. If you spot any problems, try and address them. Keep distractions to a minimum at home while they are doing their homework.
4. Make mealtimes quality family time: listen and share one good thing about each day
Kids who grow up having family dinners, when they're on their own, tend to eat more healthily. – Anne Fishel
A meal around the table can bring lots of benefits to the entire family and be an important opportunity for daily interaction. Sitting down to eat as a family provides the opportunity to have an influence over both short and long-term family health, and can help children establish resilience and the ability to cope with the demands of life as we know it now and in the future. It can also be an opportunity to introduce mindful eating too – being more aware of what and how we are eating.
Additionally, this time together allows for members to talk and share things about their day and also offers an opportunity to establish a strong and powerful bonding experience. How can we make sure family mealtimes are quality time?
- Be attentive and offer undivided attention during this time.
- Turn all modern technology off during the meal so everyone is focused on each other.
- Talk to each other about topics such as: What lessons do you have today (at breakfast)? What did you enjoy about today? What did you have for lunch (while sharing the evening meal). Tell me one thing you learned today. What made you laugh today? What made you happy today?
- Listen mindfully to your child's thoughts and worries (if any).
- Encourage each member to talk about one good thing that has happened to them that day. This lets them know you are there for them.
- Assign mealtime jobs to involve everyone, e.g.: setting and clearing the table and putting away the dishes.
However, sometimes it's not possible to share meal times during the week so plan at least one on the weekend if possible.
The benefits of any small moment of time can have long-lasting positive influences on your child's mental and physical health. Children model adult behavior and if they see you eating and engaging positively with them and others, they will carry this into their own lives.
With a bit of preparation, the leadup and transition back to school can be smooth and enjoyable not only for children but also for the rest of the family.