You have the shoes, the backpack, the supplies, and the outfit, first day of school here we come! I see you Mama, I know your smile is masking the real feelings. School is a brand new journey for you, and with that comes a slew of new emotions and thoughts. What is the balance of being hands on, but not overbearing? How do you navigate this first school year and set your child up for success?
If you’re sending your child off to school for the first time, you will quickly learn the importance of communicating with his/her teacher. The teacher might ask you to tell them about your child, do so openly and honestly – this helps the teacher get a better idea of who your child is. If your child is struggling with a concept, or a certain friend at school, the teacher is there day in and day out, he/she will be able to answer your questions and ease your stress. When your child had a late night out with the grandparents and they refused to eat breakfast that morning, send a quick email so the teacher knows his/her behavior might be a little off that day. In many ways your child’s teacher becomes your right hand man, the only other adult who spends as much time with your child as you – be prepared to communicate as such.
2. HELP IN CLASS
Teachers everywhere end up spending so much of their own money on classroom supplies, if you are able to make donations to the classroom, offer to pick up some tissues or wipes. Ask your child’s teacher periodically throughout the year if there is anything else they need a restock on – every teacher appreciates when parents are willing to help. This also goes for volunteering. If the teacher says they need a few volunteers for a class activity or a field trip, if you can lend a helping hand, it is appreciated! Teachers can’t do it alone, remember you are all on the same team now.
3. HELP AT HOME
Piggybacking off of the help in the classroom, it is equally as important to do your part at home. If the teacher expresses that your child is having a hard time sharing in the classroom, work on this skill at home too. Maybe set up playdates with friends or cousins to help encourage the socialization, try an art class or a sport, where your child might have to share supplies or the ball. If the teacher mentions behavior issues in the classroom, ask how you can help eliminate this issue at home too. Generally, a student behaves the same at home and at school, so chances are if you are seeing a certain unwanted behavior at home, the teacher is seeing it at school too. Work together and help at home, which in turn helps in the classroom.
4. PRACTICE THE LITTLE THINGS
If you are preparing for your child’s first year of school, don’t spend all summer teaching the ABC’s or 123’s – that will come in time, and is part of what the teacher will work on at school. You should, however, practice the little things. Teach your child how to unzip/zip their lunchbox, practice how to open any containers you might send in, start using any water bottles early so your child can be as independent as possible with them. Make sure your child knows what backpack is theirs and how to open/close it. While these skills will also be reviewed in school, remember that your child’s teacher has a whole class full of students, all who need help. Any little skill your child can do independently before school starts will be a huge help in the classroom too!
5. SUPPORT, DON’T STRESS
When it’s time for parent teacher conferences, the teacher might inevitably tell you something that your child can work on. This isn’t a critique of your parenting style, this isn’t a criticism of your child, this is your child’s teacher wanting the best for him/her, and preparing each child for the next school year. Support the teacher, ask questions if you have them, but don’t stress over it. The teacher doesn’t think your child is ‘bad,’ in fact your child means the world to their teacher, and I bet they go home at night and brainstorm new lessons, engaging activities, helpful interventions, all with your child in mind. Support your child, and support the teacher, this will help make it a smooth transition for their first year.
The first few years of your child’s life, you and your spouse, or you and your family worked together for your child. It takes a village – remember? Congratulations, with the start of your child’s schooling career, comes a new member of your village! A teacher is a teammate, someone new to love and accept your child for exactly who they are. Work together for your child, make it a great first year at school, because they deserve it!