When the excitement, nervousness, and activity of starting a new school year have settled down, it is time to create a strong foundation to help your child have a successful school experience. Your child is still taking his cues from you, his parents; if you remain calm, reassuring, optimistic, and supportive, your child will feel both confident and competent.
It is important to remember that even though your child may have been in school for a week or two, he may still experience separation anxiety – and so may you, his parents. Therefore, it is so important for you to take the lead and parent – not burdening your child with your own anxieties. Be honest with your child, talk to him about his fears, and listen with empathy. Children will tell you everything.
- Don’t over-program your child with activities. Allow him time for homework, and allow free time to play and work off steam.
- Maintain open lines of communication with your child’s teacher, the school nurse, the guidance counselor, and the principal. Show both your interest and your goodwill. Tell them of any concerns you have in regard to your child’s health, and keep in regular contact with them regarding any learning problems your child may have.
- Send your child to school with a picture of you and your spouse or a family picture – including siblings. This can be a touchstone that he can reach for when feeling uncomfortable or insecure.
- Stick to a consistent routine, especially with your child’s bedtime schedule, to ensure that your child gets at least ten hours of sleep at night. As an adult, you know how cranky you can get when you are tired, and the same situation exists for your child. Remember that he doesn’t have your coping skills.
- Be reliable; be on time throughout the school year. It is important to take your child to school each day… whenever possible, and it is important to be on time. And that means leaving enough space for a good breakfast, a good visit, and no rushing. Further, be there to pick him up at the end of school each day, again, whenever possible, so that he can count on you to show up when you say you will. This builds self-actualization in your child. If he can count on you, he will count on himself, and he will learn to trust others.
- Safety first is a very important part of your child’s school year, including teaching your child, in advance, the proper way to deal with bullies, including reporting them to either a teacher or counselor… when necessary. In addition, you want your child to know traffic safety, as well as physical safety. That means to partner with your neighbors and the school to give age-appropriate and balanced information to your child about strangers, and how to protect himself. A young child should know his name, how to spell it, his home telephone number, and the number of a safe and responsible adult that is designated by you, and your partner.
- Talk with your child about his feelings and invite him to participate in a conversation that gives him some sense of control. Never embarrass, discount, or demean your child’s feelings. Ask him what things you and he can do together to ensure a pleasant school experience throughout the year. This is my empathic process that I created to help parents and children communicate. By using my empathic process, you can invest your child in the discussion, and as a result, he will be more likely to have a positive outcome and go happily to school.
It is important to be honest with your child and tell him that you also will miss him, when he’s at school, but that you look forward to your daily talks, hearing all about his new and exciting experiences. Be empathetic, be compassionate, and be firm. Nurture your child, meet his needs, and be reliable. You can’t spoil your child with love.