Most families are gearing up for the start of the school year this month, and sometimes the stress reaches beyond the long lines to purchase school supplies. For younger children, separation anxiety might be a concern, for older kids, it might be the uncertainty of a new teacher or different level of school. Still others worry about starting in another district, after a family move. In each of these scenarios, however, a parent’s involvement in his or her child’s education can make a difference in this significant transition in a young person’s life.
Search Institute has identified Parent Involvement in Education as one of the 40 Developmental Assets. Research shows these are characteristics of healthy, caring, resilient kids. The more assets youth have, the more likely they’ll resist risky behaviors in the future.
Parent involvement can mean a lot of different things, which means that no matter what your other commitments, you can still remain engaged in your child’s education. I’ve seen both sides of the education street – that of educator and parent – and I know how much easier it is to meet the needs of students when parents are meaningfully engaged in a partnership with teachers and other school personnel.
Here are a few tips for making this year’s transition to school easier:
1. Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher in person, during a time when he or she is not directly teaching. Most schools offer open houses, conferences or other planned events. Take a school tour, if it’s a new one for your child.
2. Maintain regular communication that keeps the teacher in the loop regarding changes in your child’s life. The advent of email has made this profoundly easier. Be persistent, but patient in waiting for a response to voice or e-mail messages.
3. Make kid connections – in your neighborhood, church or 4-H group. Hosting a few play dates prior to the start of school will help your child to know some faces in a new school.
4. Meet the school counselor. He or she may have new student support groups, or student mentors who can help to acclimate your child to a new environment. Even a simple introduction to the school counselor will help your child to recognize an important resource person in the school.
5. Encourage your child to join a sport or club. There is probably a related organization for almost any interest your child might have. And in the elementary and middle school years, the social involvement is more valuable than the skill level obtained.
6. Talk with your child about concerns and fears. Keep a matter-of-fact tone to the conversation, and discuss issues candidly. Help your child to identify the school resource people who could help answer questions you don’t feel equipped to field.
7. Have fun with your child, as you help him prepare for the start of school. Let him pick out his own supplies, using the school-provided list.
Together, you, school personnel and community connections will be better able to meet your child’s needs. And your attention to the transition to the school year may start it off on just the right note!
What is your key to a smooth start to the school year?
Thanks for joining in to build assets in your kids! I look forward to seeing you again next month for Positively Speaking.
Kelly Curtis is a Wisconsin school counselor and author of Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things. To read more about Kelly, please visit her Weblog, Pass the Torch or follow her on Twitter.