Smooth Sailing in September
5 tips to create a stable environment during an uncertain time
Children have returned to in-person learning – many after a year or more of virtual school or doing school in small learning “pods.” With Covid-19 cases still on the rise and mask mandates outlawed in Oklahoma, parents, teachers, school staff and students are understandably confused about how to safely attend school, not to mention the protocol for bus riding and after-school activities. While you can’t control the virus or your school district’s recommendations, you can control what happens at home. Here are some tips for creating a calm and stable environment during an uncertain time. Communication and flexibility are key components.
1. Have a family meeting
It’s wise to make a clear transition from summer days to a workable fall schedule. Allow your children to express their feelings, impressions and thoughts about the new school year now that they’ve been back for a few days or weeks. It’s very important that children know their adult family members support their learning. Each family member has input in setting expectations for such things as goals, homework times, television privileges, telephone and texting time, bedtimes and how many after-school activities will be part of the new year.
If your children are expressing anxiety or worries, this is a good time to explain how you, school staff and teachers are working to take care of them. It’s also a good time to discuss the importance of mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing. Family meetings build a foundation for open, non-judgmental communication and allow the whole family to start a new school year ready for success. Regular family meetings will give everyone a chance to express concerns, problem-solve together and keep communication open.
2. Create Personalized Study Spaces
Here is your chance to encourage your children in good study habits. Help them create and personalize a study area at home. Even though most students have been studying from home in the past year, invite your children to work with you to reorganize and plan new décor to fit the needs of their new classroom and new school year. It’s amazing how a few contact paper-wrapped cans and some bright new pencils can perk up a work area. Buy a simple plastic organizer tray or use some recycled boxes to store rulers, erasers, scissors, glue and other necessary supplies. Add a nametag, stickers, drawings, pictures—anything that makes it a special place to settle in and get the homework done.
3. Do the Basics
Your family may need to get back to pre-pandemic practices and habits. In order to be alert and ready for the school day, it’s important for children to begin each day with a healthy breakfast. It’s not just the nutrition that’s important—it’s also a time for the family to gather strength for the day, together!
Children must be taught to be on time. It’s a habit that will benefit them throughout life. Teach your children the importance of building a reputation for being responsible in this important way.
Encourage children to be ready to learn. This means sending supplies, forms, fees or whatever has been requested by the school in a timely manner. Homework should be kept in a special folder ready to turn in. If you notice problems with homework or if your children are struggling with assignments, make an appointment to speak with the teacher before things get worse.
Make sure a family member attends back-to-school nights and open houses. Both grandparents and parents are welcome to volunteer in classrooms. Working parents can offer to go on field trips or help teachers in other ways. Plan ahead—add school events such as music programs, PTA events and curriculum nights to your monthly calendars.
5. Build a Team
Parents must stay in touch with their child’s teacher. They need to know what’s happening in the classroom and also inform the teacher of anything out of the ordinary at home: emotional loss, health concerns, etc. This builds a relationship with the school that supports learning. Check the school website to stay informed. Because of Covid, schools may change protocols according to the latest CDC guidance or the number of children infected in the school. Prepare to check often for school updates and be flexible. Most schools have student portals for parents to check grades and assignments. Make sure you know what technology your child’s school uses and how to use it. Find out how your child’s teacher likes to be contacted and how the school communicates with parents. And don’t forget to regularly look for bulletins, information and newsletters in that backpack! A parent-child-teacher team builds the strongest possible support for a child’s learning success.
The goal, of course, is a positive, healthy start to a new school year for the whole family. Challenges will come over the course of the year, but a solid beginning with every family member on board will do wonders to ensure smooth sailing this September.