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Ready for School: Preparing Your Child for Academic Success

written by Dr. Jennie Gary

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Hi. I’m Doctor Jennie. Welcome to Kid’s Corner.

Today, we’re gonna be talking about ‘school readiness’, which is important any time of the year, but especially at the start of a new school year.

This can be a nerve-wracking time for both parents and children. The fear of the unknown can be scary for some kids and even for adults.

It’s normal to feel some nerves when starting at a new school. Starting school means your child must learn to be more independent, and it’s not just reading, writing, and math that they learn in school. Your child will also gain crucial life skills like how to make and keep friends.

It’s important to be aware of some of the common challenges children might face in school so that you can start to prepare them ahead of time and hopefully prevent some of these issues.

One of the common school challenges your child may face is time management.

Some kids may need help adjusting to new subjects and increased homework.

For some children, academic challenges, or poor grades can be a problem.

Others might have performance anxiety. Some kids can get very nervous about every assignment, quiz, and test that they have.

Bullying is another issue, and this can lead to serious problems for your child. It can interfere with social and emotional development and school performance.

And remember, for older kids, bullying doesn’t just occur in the classroom. It can also happen online so be careful of social media use and delay it as long as possible.

Similar to bullying, many children face peer pressure.

Check in with your child and let them know that they should always listen to their inner voice and never feel that they have to do anything that feels unsafe to them.

And don’t worry, you can help prepare your child for the adjustment to school. Talk to your child about starting school one to two weeks beforehand and all throughout the school year.

Listen to your child’s concerns and offer support.

Validate any emotions they may have, whether it’s fear, anger, excitement, or worrying. Let them know it’s okay to feel scared and that it’s normal to be worried about something they haven’t done before.

Try to help your child get familiar with their new school. If it’s the start of a school year, if possible schedule a tour or drive by the campus before the first day. And try to attend any start of the school year events that might be scheduled.

You can even create a map of their school and the classrooms before school starts or if you’re moving to a new school. This can help relieve some anxiety. And have fun with it. Use bright colors or stickers for the playground, the cafeteria, or favorite classes as you map out their school. Try to get your child excited about school. Try to sound positive and upbeat when you talk to your child about starting school.

Remember, children feed off of and even mimic their parents’ energy. If your child can sense that you’re nervous about school, it could make your child feel more anxious about their school as well.

Some ways to get excited about school can be back-to-school shopping, reading children’s books about starting school, or identifying any friends that might be in their new class too.

So next, let’s talk about some of the areas in which your children may need more parental guidance.

The first is time management. Help your child set short-term and long-term goals. Teach your child to do the most important tasks first. You can even get a calendar or planner and show your child how to list out all their responsibilities like homework and afterschool activities.

Next is grades. Check in often to make sure your child is completing their homework and help them get extra help or tutoring for any areas they’re having difficulty in.

Reward success all throughout the year. Even if your child is struggling, it’s still important to support any efforts they make. Let them know it’s okay as long as they’re working hard and doing their best.

Encourage your child to ask their teachers questions and let them know it’s okay to ask for help. When your child does make a mistake, talk to them about how they can learn from it. Remember, practice makes perfect.

Approach any failures your child has with compassion.

Let your child know that a bad grade does not make them a bad kid. And that you love them the same amount regardless of their grades.

You also wanna talk to your child about self-esteem and social skills. You can do this by helping your child learn how to make and keep friends.

Try to teach your child some of the following: to let other people know that your child appreciates them, to avoid gossip and putdowns in any kind of negative talk, to seek out kind respectful people as friends, and to not let a simple disagreement hurt their friendships.

You can also nourish your child’s self-esteem by helping them recognize and grow their talents. Encourage your child to take part in afterschool activities that they’re interested in. This can be sports, drama, or anything else. These can really help to raise a child’s confidence.

Talk about all the successes your child has had. Examples include doing well on a test, learning new spelling words, trying a new skill, reaching out to a new friend, or completing an art project.

Communicate with your child’s teachers often to help identify any potential issues.

The earlier you reach out to their teachers, the more time you allow for your child to improve.

Finally, talk about any potential problems with your child before school starts and all throughout the year.

To help them deal with peer pressure, teach them to say no and to choose friends who treat them kindly and with respect.

Talk with your child about bullying. Teach them the importance of using kind words and treating others as they would like to be treated themselves.

Help your child come up with a plan in case they do have to deal with the bully. For example, they can walk away or they can look the bully in the eye and say, “leave me alone.”

And that they should always talk to their teacher or parent for any problems that arise.

It’s also important to talk to your child about the importance of eating snacks, meals, and drinking water while at school.

Unfortunately, I’ve had so many patients who don’t eat at all while at school and this can really affect their learning and their growth.

Check in with your child, send them to school with a refillable water bottle, and if it’s possible, add some non-perishable healthy snacks to their backpack, so they always have a backup option for nutrition. I usually recommend low-sugar granola or protein bars, fruits, like apples, and nuts or nut butters if allowed by their school.

If your child has a learning disability or developmental delays, then it’s important to speak to your child’s school early to arrange for any accommodations or extra support they may need. It’s important to know what kind of disability your child has. It also helps to know what their strengths are.

If your child hasn’t been tested, talk to their school about doing a comprehensive assessment.

Your child may be able to get help from a learning specialist at school. And if so, your child will likely get a learning plan, which is called an individualized education plan, or also known as an IEP.

If your child doesn’t qualify for services or an IEP, work with the school to find the best ways to help your child learn. For example, your child might need extra time to finish tests and school work, or there might be tutoring options available through the school. Remember, you can use these tips not only for back to school, but throughout the whole school year.

I’m Doctor Jennie, and see you on the next Kid’s Corner.

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