A critical lesson for parents to master as their kids return to school: Cut them some slack.
“The first days and weeks are tough, so it’s best for parents to provide as much patience, understanding and support as possible,” said Spencer Clark, an assistant professor of education at Kansas State University.
The early days of school will plant roots for the rest of the academic year, Clark and his colleagues said in a university news release.
Here are their tips for getting the school year off to an A-plus start:
- Offer kids a choice. “Anytime kids have a choice, it’s freeing,” said Lori Levin, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction. “Providing choices, such as what to wear and whether to bring a lunch or eat in the school cafeteria, helps students feel a sense of ownership in the process of preparing for school.”
- Make sure they’re rested. Kids in full-day kindergarten may be tired and fussy for the first few weeks. Put them to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until they get to the best bedtime, and use blackout shades if needed. Children in elementary school should sleep 10 to 11 hours a day.
- Bank on breakfast. Prepare a healthy breakfast or provide high-protein granola bars to eat in the morning. “It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but they do need to have something in their tummies before they head off to school for hours of learning,” Levin said.
- Focus on connection. “Studies show that the No. 1 thing that helps kids be resilient through middle school is knowing they have one adult in their life, whether it’s a parent, teacher, coach or clergy member, who they can rely on,” Levin said.
- Share your own experiences. Talk to your kids about your own experiences in school — and listen to theirs. “Listening attentively and without judgment is so important,” Levin said.
- Consider your own expectations. “Studies of feedback from high schoolers show they are under tremendous pressure, which they put on themselves and feel from parents to get good grades, be in a sport and get into a great college,” Levin said. “Having reasonable expectations is important. So many teens try to do it all and get overwhelmed. Having some down time without technology is really important.”
For more about preparing kids for school, viist the U.S.-based National Education Association.