By Amy Salgado
It’s that time of year when we begin replacing beach days and late summer nights with early mornings and school days. The start of a new school year can bring about excitement, anxiety and new challenges. Here are some tips to help begin the school year with hope and success.
Routines are important to help kids anticipate what is expected each day and to promote self-regulation. Start your child’s day with a breakfast and have a healthy snack upon their arrival from school. Consider reducing access to screens and allowing for more opportunities to engage positively with others.
Before bedtime, it’s also a good idea to prepare for the school day by making lunch, setting out clothes, or making sure all materials/assignments are packed. Allow your child to help in the process – even if you don’t always agree with their wardrobe choices. This will help children build skills and begin to take responsibility for themselves.
You can begin to practice this new schedule even if school hasn’t started yet. By the time classes start, your kids will be in the swing of the morning rhythm.
Take note of important dates and keep them organized on a calendar. These include open house, Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, and parent-teacher conferences. Also, many schools provide a downloadable calendar you can hang on a wall or your refrigerator.
If your child has an IEP, review it before school begins and continue to do so throughout the school year. It may be helpful to review the accommodations with your child so that they can understand what is available to help them progress. Be sure to make note of changes that need to be made based on your child’s current needs. Reach out to the school if you have any questions or concerns.
Communicate often with the school. If your child or family has experienced changes over the summer, let the school know. Teachers should also be informed of any concerns or milestones. This can help the teacher build a positive relationship with your child and support their successes.
Aside from communicating with the school, it’s also important to communicate with your child. Children look to adults to guide them. If you demonstrate a positive attitude toward school, your child can begin to create their own healthy and positive beliefs that can result in improved academic performance. If your child has a good day at school, provide reinforcement and share in their excitement. If your child comes home from school disappointed, offer support and validation. Encourage your child to try again the next day.
Reflect and Prepare
As you look forward to the future school year, take time to review the previous year with your child. If they ran into any challenges, how did they work through them? Talk about strategies that helped and how your child can deploy them again this year.
If you anticipate a new challenge, such as a difficult teacher or social scene, talk through sources of support or skills that can help your child successfully navigate through any difficulties. By preparing for possible road blocks, you help your child confidentially navigate them.
Be kind to yourself
Take care of yourself – eat well, exercise, and try to get enough sleep — and encourage your family to do the same. By modeling healthy habits, you are teaching your children that they are valuable and setting them up for success. Here’s to a great school year!
Amy Salgado is an education support services therapist at Hillsides Education Center, a therapeutic residential and non-public school located in Pasadena, CA. In her job, she supports children and their families with their educational goals as part of a wraparound team. Amy, who has also worked as a school therapist in public, charter, and continuation schools, recently celebrated her two-year anniversary at Hillsides. To learn more about Hillsides Education Center, please visit www.hillsideseducationcenter.org.