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Teachers' Tips to Prepare Your Child for Back-to-School Success

These 11 tips will get your student's year off to a smooth start

Back to School supplies

Email the teacher

Email your child’s teacher at the beginning of the school year. Just say “hi,” let them know the best way to reach you, and that you look forward to your child learning in this grade level. Teachers appreciate the outreach, because there are other parents who slam the door shut on communication. “Letting the teacher know, ‘I’m approachable,’ is reassuring to the teacher,” said Seema Imam, Ed.D., associate professor of Elementary and Middle Level Teacher Education at National Louis University.

 

Plan the night before

It’s easy for school mornings to get crazy. Don’t let your child be the one who’s late to school because he couldn’t find his shoes. Instead, minimize chaos by having a place for each child to put his or her things, including the backpack. Get kids to sleep early enough so they have time in the morning to eat breakfast without rushing. “Younger children need 9 to 11 hours of sleep due to the increasing demands on their time from school, sports and extracurricular activities, said Ayn Keneman, Ed.D., associate professor of education at National Louis University. “ It takes energy to remember what you learned.”  

 

Deal with, “I don’t want to go to school!”

Getting to the heart of the child's reluctance to go to school is key. What are they worried about? Bullies, sitting alone at lunch, the academic work, or just not wanting summer to end?

“Asking questions can reveal important intel into the feelings and emotions around going back to school,” said Leslie Katch, Ph.D., assistant professor of education at National Louis University.  “If you can pinpoint an issue, talking through the problem and acknowledging your child's concerns can help provide the confidence needed to enter the first day of school.”

 

For small children, role-play what will happen

For younger children who will enter preschool for the first time, routine is paramount, Katch said. Try practicing and talking through what will happen on the first day of school. "You will have your backpack, we will put it in your cubby, and then mommy will kiss you goodbye." Or, providing your child with a mantra, like, "Mommy always comes back after we eat lunch," can provide some comfort. Knowing what to expect before the first day of school can help reduce the child’s anxiety about first time separations.

 

Take turns reading with your child

At home, parents are the teachers. Pick out a book and read a paragraph; then let your child read a paragraph, and take turns. “The child gets to hear what the words sound like when they’re pronounced correctly,” Imam said. Your child also gets the practice of encountering unfamiliar words and learning them, plus the bonus of doing something with you. It’s important to note that reading all formats counts, including comic books, graphic novels, magazines, digital formats and listening to audiobooks.

 

Reduce anxiety

Anxiety is a normal, adaptive reaction to stressful situations, but if persistent it can negatively affect many aspects of a child’s learning and social and emotional well-being. As children return to school from summer vacation, feelings of anxiety can escalate. “Parents and other caregivers can teach their children simple strategies to help with anxiety, such as organizing materials and time, developing short scripts of what to do and say when anxiety increases, and learning coping strategies to relax under stressful conditions,” says Jennifer Cooper, Ph.D., NCSP, assistant professor in NLU’s School Psychology program. She recommends that parents create an open dialogue about feelings and help their children manage stress by maintaining realistic, attainable goals and expectations for their child. Caregivers also should be aware of warning signs of anxiety, such as excessive worrying, somatic complaints, irritability, difficulty concentrating, change in sleeping patterns, etc., and seek help from a qualified mental health professional if the problem persists or interferes with daily activities.

 

Remove the “math is difficult” stigma

Parents and students alike can feel intimidated by math homework, especially as its difficulty increases. Instead of believing the myth that mathematics is intimidating and difficult, try talking with your child about how math is here to help make life easier. Relate math to daily activities, such as cooking, sports and shopping.

 

Volunteer at your child’s school

For a parent to volunteer is a great way to build a bridge between school and home. If you have time to volunteer during the school day, great; if not, email the teacher and explain you’d like to help, but you work from 9 to 5. “There are things teachers can ask parents to do that working parents can do,” Imam said, such as preparing materials for bulletin boards. In addition, work the school events that take place on weekends or evenings. Join the PTA OR PTO.

 

Master the technology

Many schools now have a password-protected website or parent portal that parents can use to view quiz results, grades and other information. Too often, parents never even look at it. If it’s tricky or you don’t know the password, be proactive about reaching out to the teacher or school webmaster to learn how to use it.

 

Reconnect with friends

With summer activities and travel, children can lose touch with the friends that they made during the school year. Seeing a friend can make children more comfortable, so schedule a playdate with a few friends before school starts. “Going back to school is stressful for children of all ages, so reconnecting with friends is a great way to help reduce a child’s anxiety for the upcoming school year, “ said Keneman.

 

Talk with your children 20 minutes each day

You don’t need to lecture them on the Revolutionary War. Just build in some time to connect, whether the child feels like talking about his favorite game or the argument she had with a friend. The conversation helps parents build a relationship with their children and support them. Below are a few conversation starters.

  • Tell me about the best and/or worst part of your day.

  • Did any of your classmates do anything funny?

  • Tell me about what you read in class.

  • What's the biggest difference between this year and last year?

  • What rules are different at school than our rules at home? Do you think they're fair?

 

Effective communication is the most important 21st Century skill,” Keneman observed.  “Spending 20 minutes daily with children will increase listening and speaking skills as well as strengthen close relationships to help parents stay connected to their children during all stages of life.”

Locations
  • CHICAGO DOWNTOWN CAMPUS

    NLU’s Chicago campus on South Michigan Avenue occupies five floors of the historic Peoples Gas Building. This landmark building, across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park, is easily accessible by train, bus and car and is surrounded by restaurants, parking lots/garages and shops.

    122 S. Michigan Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60603
    (888) 658.8632
    Info » | Directions »
  • ELGIN

    Conveniently located in a fast-growing business district off I-90 and Route 31, NLU Elgin features 10 classrooms with high-tech media equipment; a computer lab with high-speed Internet access; two conference rooms; and comfortable student lounges. Parking is free at this recently remodeled and upgraded teaching site, which now includes wireless Internet access.

    620 Tollgate Road
    Elgin, IL 60123
    (888) 658.8632
    Info » | Directions »
  • NORTH SHORE

    Opened in the summer of 2006, NLU North Shore at Skokie is a state-of-the-art modern campus located just off the Edens Expressway near the Old Orchard Shopping Center. The campus includes 44 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a walk-in lab in the library; six conference rooms; a public café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; and multiple, comfortable student lounge areas.

    5202 Old Orchard Road
    Skokie, IL 60077
    (888) 658.8632
    Info » | Directions »
  • LISLE

    Located just minutes from the East-West Tollway (I-88), NLU Lisle features 42 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a separate walk-in lab in the library; a café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; conference rooms; and six comfortable student lounge areas with wireless access.

    850 Warrenville Road
    Lisle, IL 60532
    (888) 658.8632
    Info » | Directions »
  • WHEELING

    Located in one of Chicago's major northwest suburbs, the newly renovated NLU Wheeling includes 20 classrooms with high-tech media equipment, four conference rooms, four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, large student lounge areas with wireless capabilities and interactive video capabilities, and an extensive research library. The site also houses the university library research collection.

    1000 Capitol Drive
    Wheeling, IL 60090
    (888) 658.8632
    Info » | Directions »
  • FLORIDA (TAMPA)

    Established in 1988 and located in one of Tampa's major business districts, NLU's Florida Regional Center serves students in 13 counties in central Florida. In addition to its classrooms, the National Louis University Tampa Regional Center features a computer lab, student lounges, and conference room.

    5110 Sunforest Drive, Suite 102
    Tampa, FL 33634
    (800) 366.6581
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