As summer dwindles down, we are sure to do our best to enjoy the last of the relaxing afternoons, the long, warm nights, the late Shabbosim, and, of course, as many BBQ’s as possible. With all this wonderful downtime and shared experiences, it’s easy to forget that in just a couple of weeks it will be the beginning of a new school year.
For some, the beginning of a new school year heralds excitement and anticipation as our children advance another grade. For others, old anxieties about keeping up with school work and getting along with friends surface. The best way to prepare your child for the best year possible is, of course, by preparing.
Let’s start with the simple, but sometimes over-looked, elements.
- Uniform/school clothes: If you are lucky enough to have a child who wears a uniform, order them as soon as possible. If you are ordering from a store, your child’s size might not be in stock, and you will have to wait for a delivery. Ordering online might necessitate a return if your child grew more than you realized. If your child is still growing, order a little larger so that you don’t have to buy uniforms again, as uniform stores and distributors tend to be more accessible at the beginning of the year than in the middle of the year.
If your child’s school does not have a uniform, it probably has a dress code. Double-check the dress code carefully, as you don’t want to create an awkward position for both you and your child. To avoid buying a bunch of clothes that your child decides he or she no longer likes in December, buy as few items as you can now – about four tops and three bottoms. When the clothes are outgrown/ruined, you can buy more, in keeping with the school dress code, and your child’s changing taste.
- School Supplies: Unlike clothing, school supplies are usually available all year long, just not at a sale price. Head over to your local office supply store to stock up on things that you know your family will use – pencils, notebooks, folders, lined paper, pencils, easers, sharpeners, scotch tape, and paper reinforcements. Did I say pencils? I don’t know why, but my children go through hundreds of pencils a year, and we tend to be scrounging around for pencil nubs at the end of the school year. This year, I will make sure to stock up on extra supplies that are generic enough for everyone to use. For more specific supplies, I would wait until the teacher gives a list, as very often the teacher’s list is different than the one provided by the school.
- Social Skills: As a child spends most of his or her waking hours at school, it is a true pity if a child is finding it hard to get along with peers and isn’t enjoying the social element of school. Having supervised one-on-one playdates, with the children doing a specific activity, like baking or art and crafts, might help a younger child. This shared activity takes the pressure off having to make small talk, and conversation flows easily about what they are doing. An older child who is having trouble with friends can be enrolled in an after-school activity where there is more structure and the ability for easy conversation. Bullying is a separate issue, one that often is concurrent with a friendless child. It would be irresponsible for me to offer advice on a subject I am not trained in, but I urge parents to take these situations seriously, and speak directly with school administrators and therapists to try to remedy the situation. In addition, I would encourage parents to spend time with their child, doing things the child enjoys, so that the child has some positive childhood experiences to counteract the negative ones during school time.
- Anxiety over new teachers/academic workload: Students who have experienced stress from past year’s academic demands may view the coming year with dread. It’s important that you sit with your child and explain that we all have different strengths and not all of them are germane to school. Find a way for your child to develop these other strengths – sports, music, art, etc. – so that your child will feel he or she has something to offer to society.
We also should remind ourselves that not every child is going to be a future Einstein and we need to be okay with that. If a child is well rested, fed, going to class every day, doing homework every night, and does not exhibit any learning disabilities, he or she should be okay. If not, make sure to talk to the school administrator. Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy, and there is nothing more worthwhile than a child who is successful at school.