This is one of the happiest times of the year for school administrators and teachers. The classrooms in every school are being decorated, every school campus is pristine, families are registered, and as each day of August passes teachers all across the country are waiting to watch young people arrive excited and happy about learning. For Catholic school teachers watching the young people arrive renews their commitment to provide a quality academic education in an environment where each student has an opportunity encounter Christ.
Parents are the primary educator of their children so you can do your part as well to get your child(ren) ready for school. A little advance preparation can make the first week a lot easier. Tailor these strategies to suit you and your child as you prepare for the big day.
Practice going to school:
Make a dry run to help your child get familiar with the route and the routine. Point out interesting sights or places familiar to your child. Notice the swings, slides, or other fun stuff that your think your child will like — and try them out together.
Dedicate the school year to the Blessed Mother:
Take your child to Church. Remind them that this is where Jesus lives and the more time that they spend in His home, the happier they will be. Then light a votive candle and dedicate the school year to the Blessed Mother. Have your child to pledge to her to always do his or her best in school.
Describe what will happen on the first day:
Keep in mind that a child starting school for the first time or going to a new school may have a hard time imagining what it will be like (You’ve been to school before, but they haven’t.) “Talking about the basic sequence of the day will help your child make a mental movie of what to expect. Kids form pictures in their minds, and reviewing the process in detail will make things more familiar and less scary on the first day of school,
Ask your child compelling questions:
Specific questions will help your child imagine what school will be like and help you talk about the fun stuff and the hard stuff. You might ask,
- “What do you think the hardest part of school is going to be?”
- “Is there anything that worries you about starting school?”
- “What are you really looking forward to?”
Renew meal schedules and bedtime routines:
Sometimes summer can place an irregularity to meal schedules and bed time curfews. Two weeks before school begins create a meal schedule and begin rolling bedtime back to a school schedule. Begin slowly, waking your child up 15 minutes earlier every day and going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until she is back on track.
Meet kids in the class:
If your child is going to a new school, find out if there will be a class gathering before the first day; it can be helpful to see familiar faces when she walks into a new classroom. Even if your child already has friends at school, schedule some play dates with kids your child may not have seen over the summer.
Learn about the drop-off policy:
Find out about the policy for parents walking children into the classroom and how long you can stay. If you anticipate that your child will need extra time to adjust, talk to the teacher before school starts, if you can.
Give children control over what they can control:
Offering simple choices may help calm nerves and get kids excited. For example, if you pick out a new backpack or lunchbox, let your child choose the color. If you shop for school supplies, let your child find the items in the store and check them off on your list.
Plan ahead how you will say goodbye:
Think about what your child needs in a goodbye. What will be most helpful — a quick goodbye, or five minutes of cuddle time with you?
Steve Virgadamo is an educator and school administrator filled with a missionary zeal for contributing to education reform. Currently, he serves as the Associate Superintendent for Leadership at the Archdiocese of New York and he encourages every Catholic School Leader to share the tips above with all of the families they serve.