By Balwant Sanghera
Another brand new school year will get under way on Tuesday, Septmber8. In order to start on the right foot, the parents of the school bound children need to be fully cognizant of the ways and means to make their children’s schooling a productive and enjoyable experience. Anxiety is the most common denominator amongst children when starting a new school year. New teachers, new friends, uncertainty, and in many cases a brand new school environment. This is more so in case of children going to preschool or entering kindergarten. These children need a lot of assurance that everything will work out well for them. Similarly, children going from one level to the next also need reassurance and support. These include students going from grade 3 (primary level) to intermediate, grade 7 to high school and from high school to college, university or work force. A new level is always naturally a source of anxiety and needs on-going support.
In addition to helping children begin their new school year on the right foot, there are a lot of other issues that the parents need to be fully aware of and be pro-active. Providing nutritious lunch, ensuring a proper and distraction free environment for the students to study at home or do their homework, protect themselves from inappropriate exposure to technology are crucial. In this context, on-going contact with the child’s teacher is very important. Sometime, suddenly, a child may begin to experience learning difficulties at school. In such cases it is important to get an early assessment by professionals in order to find the cause and remediation of those problems. If left unattended, these difficulties can cause serious academic, social and psychological harm to the child.
It is very helpful to set the routines for the child early in the school year. Most of the children need structure in their lives in order to succeed in and out of school. As such, setting routine and structure in the beginning of the school year will go a long way in making their schooling enjoyable and productive. After the summer break, the children also need help in setting their sleeping schedules. Children in the primary grades need at least nine hours of uninterrupted sleep. Teenagers usually have tough time to go to bed early and get up in the morning. Their biological clock works little differently than the younger children. As such, they need a lot of help and encouragement in setting their routines.
Usually, it is very helpful to set up a school communications centre at home. Select one particular spot or area where everything relating to your child’s school is kept. These may include notices from school, permission slips, forms, information about field trips and schedules etc. A child’s backpack is also very important part of his/her schooling. Make sure the backpack doesn’t exceed 10to20% of the child’s weight. It should contain only important items needed for school. There should be no clutter .Make sure the weight in the backpack is distributed equally. Choose the correct backpack size. Encourage the child to use both straps and lift it safely by bending his/her knees.
Finally, always be willing to listen to your child with open mind. Be non -judgemental. Keep the lines of communication open so that your child feels comfortable in conveying his/ her concerns and problems to you. He/she should always feel comfortable in conveying her/his concerns to you in a friendly and non-threatening environment. These small gestures are bound to make your child’s schooling a very productive and positive experience.
Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist.