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Do This One Thing Before School Starts

[Read the previous post on: Reading is More Than an Academic Subject]

I have been talking to a lot of people about how to help our kids with the transition into school.

Yes, we’re getting ready to go back to school. It’s going to be September before we know it, and we do want to get our kids to feel comfortable, ready, and resilient in this transition! 

And as you know, I work with kids who are struggling in school, and who are not confident about themselves as readers, as writers, or as learners. What do these kids most need when going back to school? They need the feeling of connectedness that is the most important precursor to confidence. 

If you’re like many parents I speak to, you may be starting to feel like you need to get them the skills they need and give them a bit more learning so they can start the school year off on the right foot. This is especially true for your kids who are struggling. 

What I would like to tell you, and give you permission to do, is actually the exact opposite

For the next two weeks, could you notice their strengths? Could you tell them “hey, I noticed you being really creative.” That’s it, just mention it and move on. 

Could you spend a lot more time together? Something that I’ve tried doing with my one year old baby, in the last couple weeks is: I put away my phone and I tell her, “you have my full attention now.” Then I spend 20 minutes or so with her. You could try that, just say, out loud, “you have my full attention now.” Show your kids you’re there with them. 

Could you allow for some independence? The way we build up resilience is knowing we’ve got our own back. The way we build that knowing is by doing something on our own and seeing the results. So, you try something and it works out, great! Now you know, you could do it. You try something and it doesn’t work out. That’s okay, now you see how you act when something doesn’t work out right. Could you allow your kids the opportunity to be independent? 

All that to say, for the next two weeks, I would love for you to try to take all the pressure away from anything to do with schooling

That last work sheet, that last bit of homework, that last “oh my god, I told the teacher that you’re going to read for 15 minutes a day and we have not done that. Let me sign a bunch of reading logs, go read for a half hour.” The very sensible thinking that if you make sure they have some of these skills now, the transition will be easier. I’d like to tell you.. 

None of this is going to help your kid nearly as much as them going into school thinking, “I’ve got some strengths that I can lean on and I know that I can do hard things and make it to the other side.”

So, this is your permission slip, if you need it, to spend these weeks in pure play and enjoyment.

Honestly, keep doing this a few weeks after school starts, very much into September or even into October. Just hanging with your kid when you’re home, giving them your attention when you can, and not asking them to show their learning or catch up from tricky moments in school

You can read out loud to them- please do read them books!- but skip the part where you say, “Oh, what’s this word? I know, you know it!” Skip that part. As a former poor student, I can tell you, that part puts so much pressure on them and takes away from the warm fuzzy feelings we want them to have. That quiz-like question makes them think, “oh, I do know it or I don’t know it and I want to say it right for my mom, but I’m not sure.” All of that inner chatter is what we want to release as the school year is starting. 

So this is your permission slip to let your kids be over the next several weeks and focus on independence, focus on connection and focus on all of the wonderful strengths that they have. 

Independence, Connection and Strengths, that is the prescription for a successful start to school. 

.. and, please, not one more worksheet from now until the first day. 

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