For elementary children and their parents, the start of a new school year can be both an exciting and nerve-racking experience. Parents often become consumed with ensuring their student is ready for the new adventure. Meanwhile, meeting friends and new teachers might feel a bit overwhelming for young children.

Here are some tips from a principal, a teacher and a parent to help smooth the transition into the new year:

1. Establish routines: In the days leading up to the start of the new year, parents should establish bedtime and mealtime routines, said Maria Villegas, principal at Ponderosa Elementary in Anaheim, Calif. “Parents should begin putting their children to sleep earlier so they can get used to waking up in time for school,” she said. “They can also provide their breakfast and lunches to coincide with the times school meals will be served.”

Villegas suggests that parents begin these routines two weeks before the start of classes. Routines can also include bedtime reading, daily exercising and household chores if they were suspended during the summer. Elementary students typically need 10 to 12 hours of sleep, according to experts. Once school begins, parents should ensure students have clearly designated homework hours, television time and playtime, Villegas said.

2. Overcome anxiety: For many kindergartners, the first day of school can be an anxious time. Villegas said. Parents can take their children for a tour of the school a few days before the start of classes to become familiar with their classroom and meet their teacher, principal and other staff.

Villegas also tells parents to show excitement and happiness about the start of school. “Children are often a reflection of their parents,” she said. “If the parent is nervous and anxious, then the child will feel the same way.” Parents should also make an effort to spend the first morning of school in the classroom with their child to ease the transition, she said.

3. Support study habits: Parents can encourage strong academic habits by creating a supportive home environment for learning, said Vivian Dotson, a parent and member of the PTA. “Children need to understand that learning doesn’t just take place at school,” she said. “At home, the learning process continues through homework and studying.”

Dotson said parents can designate a place to do homework. For younger children, a family room or kitchen where a parent can supervise and support the child will work, she said. Older children can study in their rooms or another quiet area of the home.

4. Help socialize: Parents can set up play dates with new classmates so their children have a few friends when they arrive for school, Dotson said. Additionally, parents can prepare children for social situations by teaching them simple social skills.

“I have my children at the start of each school year introduce themselves to at least three new students,” she said. “A simple introduction can ease tensions on the first day, and has even led to several long-lasting friendships.”

5. Stay involved: Carrie Long, a second-grade teacher, said her top recommendation for parents is always for them to remain continuously involved in their child’s education.

“Parents are a vital part of the learning process,” she said. “I always have a lot of parents excited about school at the beginning of the year. But that’s not always the case throughout.” Long said she asks parents to volunteer in the classroom at least once a month if their schedules allow. She also suggested that parents ask their children daily about homework. Also, they should check with teachers to ensure children are fully understanding and completing assignments.


2012 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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