Parents across the area are headed back to school today with their children.
They’ve got enough on their minds as parents – being sure their kids have the clothes they need, that they’ve had their vaccinations, that they’ve got their school supplies and had their eyes checked, et cetera.
But what about preparing kids mentally for the start of the school year?
Faith Crittenden is a licensed social worker who helps oversee Family & Children’s Services school-based counselor program.
Although classes at Tulsa-area schools started Wednesday and Thursday, Crittenden said it’s not too late for parents to follow a couple of quick tips to get their children ready for the year.
These will all add up to helping children reduce their anxiety or stress level during class – when they need to be paying attention – something that can be even more beneficial for children who have mental, emotional or behavioral health issues.
Read on for the tips. For more, see these from the National Association of School Psychologists.
1. Get children in gear for school by helping them transition from a summer to a school mentality. They’ve been going all summer without having to follow a teacher’s rules and directions.
“It’s hard for them to turn their brain on after unstructured, doing-what-you-want time, to now going back and listening to a teacher tell you what to do all day,” Crittenden said.
Do this by initiating conversations with children about school starting, discussing who their teachers are. Ask if their friends have had them, and what do they say about those teachers?
2. Get children to look up their teachers on the school’s website.
Often, each classroom will have its own website through the school’s site. Usually, teachers will have a biography on their class home pages that tells students who they are.
Knowing a bit about teachers’ stories helps make them seem more approachable and familiar to students during that critical first week of school.
3. Take children to “Back to School Night.” Usually a few weeks after school starts, it can be a great way for kids to meet teachers outside of a formal classroom setting. It can also help with learning their school’s layout, something that’s especially helpful for children who may be changing classrooms during the day for the first time.
4. If children have emotional or behavioral health issues, parents should set up a meeting with teachers and principals to discuss their children and what has worked in the past. Parents will especially want to do this with any new teachers. Not only will this help their children, it will also help teachers work with students in the classroom to ensure they receive an optimum classroom experience.
“That way, when those kids walk in, those teachers feel armed with things to do and have a plan so that when something does arise, it’s not just willy nilly things that we’re pulling out of the air. We’ve actually got a plan that we’ve talked about and that we’re going to implement and do.”
5. Finally, parents should get to know their school’s counselor, especially if their children have struggled or are struggling with emotional or behavioral health issues. Additionally, it is also helpful to go by the school’s office and asking who the school’s mental health provider is, Crittenden said.
That counselor can refer help directly or refer you to other services offered.
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