As I sit at the pool watching all the children splash, scream, throw balls, and dunk each other under the water, I began to think about how all this would change in a few short months. I wondered if parents were beginning to panic about whether their children were prepared for the coming year. (Probably NOT.) However, I would like to take this opportunity to remind parents about things that might make this transition a little easier.
Most teachers feel that the skills that follow are important for a successful school year. I am sure that many of you already do some of these things, and some of you are doing all of these things. But just in case people need a refresher, or want some unsolicited advice from a teacher (who likes to give advice) here goes:
- Read, read, read. (Is that a surprise?) Of course, this doesn’t mean that your child needs to read the great American novel or all of the Harry Potter books. Reading can include the sports page, the front page, the local page, Sports Illustrated, or the People magazine you purchased for the pool. They can read to themselves, to a little brother, a stuffed animal, the kid next door or to the dog. As long as they are reading something, they are on the right path!
2. Play, play, play. (Can you believe it?) Children need to be children for as long as possible. This down time in the summer is vital for their mental well being as well as their physical well-being. More importantly, however, they should be outside playing. There is a reason school’s have recess! Physical activity is good for a child’s mind and body. Kids can play organized games, imaginary games, pick-up games or solitary games. The more physical kids are during the day, the more tired they will be at night-the easier it will be for you when the dreaded bed time rolls around. And not only is outside play good for your child, but just think about what it will do for your sanity during those long summer days.
- Play board games with your child. Board games provide children with chances to practice important skills, such as letting someone else go first, taking turns, and losing or winning graciously. These concepts are important for a child to understand before school starts, but they are tough, so your child needs your help. Monopoly, Chutes & Ladders, Boggle, Yahtzee, Chess, Checkers and Risk are just some of the games that can be a fun way to help you ease your child into a better understanding of these tough concepts. A lot of these games are also good for practicing mental math, spelling and problem solving. Your child will be learning without even knowing it!
- Have your child do chores. Now, I don’t mean that you should make your child do your laundry, or your ironing. (Sorry! No such luck!) A child’s chores should be personal to them. Your child should make their own bed, or pick up their clothes, and put their own dishes in the sink. This will instill in them a sense of personal responsibility. And don’t forget to lead by example. If your child sees that you take responsibility for your own area and your own things, they will be more likely to follow suit.
- Help your child be independent. It’s sometimes hard for parents to get comfortable with this idea, but children need to do things for themselves. They should, for example, pick out their own clothes (It’s okay if they don’t match, right?), put their own shoes on, find their own jacket, socks, sneakers, baseball mitt, goggles or sunscreen. If they put their shoes somewhere where they can’t be found, it is their job to find them. Make a list with your child of what they are responsible for, and keep it somewhere visible, perhaps on the fridge. Sometimes it’s helpful to have one list for the morning, and one for the evening. And help them to remember to check the list!
- Teach them to take responsibility for their actions. Okay, this is a biggie. Your child needs to learn responsibility. How do you teach responsibility? Well, start with the little things – if they break something, they need to own up. If they started a fight, they need to confess. If they said something hurtful, they need to apologize. If they made a mistake, they need to admit it. But it’s important that they understand that making a mistake is not the end of the world. Everyone makes mistakes. But, not everyone is not brave enough to take responsibility. It is the first step in making everything ok again.
- Organization. If you are the type of person who spends half the morning looking for lost items –shoes, keys, parking pass – then chances are good that your child will be the one who can’t find their permission slip or forgets their lunch money. Children who are organized have an easier time in school. They can manage their homework, find their pencils, keep their desks clean, and locate notes or permission slips in their backpacks. How can you help your child be more organized? Give them a place for everything, and put everything in its place. But how, you might ask, can I have any hope for my child in this area if I can’t even find my own keys in the morning? Not all parents – myself included- are good at being (and staying) organized. So use this as a chance to teach your child another valuable lesson – it’s okay to ask for help! Whether it’s a friend, neighbor, brother, sister, or mother-in-law (some of us should even consider hiring a professional), most of us know someone who is an expert in this area. Ask them for practical advice and tips to give your child.
- Communication. How to communicate effectively with friends and teachers is a crucial skill for kids, but it’s one that does not always come naturally so must be learned. Some learn this skill right away, but for many children, it needs to be practiced. Obviously, yelling is definitely not the most effective way of communicating. If your child is a yeller (or if you are!) steps need to be taken so that they are able to get the most out of their education. Help your child understand that by listening, thinking about what a persons says, and responding appropriately, they are more likely to be included in games and activities. It is important not just for the teacher/student relationship, but also for their friendships with other children.
- Talk about school. Teachers know which children have been talking about school with their parents. Talk to your child about who their teachers are; go to the school and meet the teachers before the school starts. (Trust me, we are there getting things ready.) Talk to your children about their fears and anxieties, what they are looking forward to, and what they enjoy. Talk to your child about their day, what they are studying and what subjects they like. Children who discuss school with their parents are the ones who bring their notes in, have the extra Kleenex in their backpack, are dressed appropriately for a field trip, and generally know what’s going on at school. (Also, don’t forget to tell them that school is a good thing.)
- Teach respect. This is the most important item on the list, so I’ve saved it for last. What does respect from kids look like? It means they look at the person who is talking and they listen until the speaker is finished. Respect means following the rules, listening to the teacher, doing what people ask, and treating others the way you want to be treated. (Oh, if I could play Aretha Franklin right now, I would!)
Incorporating the above skills will ensure that your child is prepared for school and help him or her succeed this year and more importantly, in life.
Oh, one other thing—Don’t forget to tell them to practice their math facts!
(You knew I would have to post SOMETHING about helping your child get a leg up...right??? Right.)