Success in school doesn't require a sky-high IQ, it’s also about EQ: emotional intelligence. Kindergarten teachers report that more than 30 percent of children entering their classrooms do not have the necessary social and emotional skills to be prepared for school life. Knowing how to identify and manage their own emotions — and to recognize the emotions of others — is a key component of EQ. Start teaching your child many different words for feelings — the most important vocabulary they will ever learn!
Some amount of “summer slide” inevitably occurred the last few months. Kids' academic skills regress while their brains are idle during vacation. To get children back in gear for the new school year, have them read for at least 10 minutes a day — and if they get hooked on a good story and keep going, even better! Even reading comics or a kids’ magazine like Highlights or Sports Illustrated Kids can help students get back in the groove. If you have a pet, children can get terrific practice reading aloud to a non-judgmental animal friend.
No one enjoys the struggle of waking groggy kids as the excitement of the first few weeks wears off and the school routine settles in for good. Encourage kids to wake up around the same time every day — even on weekends — so the weekday mornings don't seem so impossible.
Parents love to take advantage of the back-to-school sales, but waiting until a few weeks into the school year can benefit kids and parents alike. Kids like to dress like their friends, so letting them see what everyone else is wearing might mean less shopping over all — because they won't insist that they can't possibly wear all the new things you've already purchased.
Don't assume your kids will remember all the safety details they learned last year. Parents should review important safety tips with their kids. Stand back from the curb at the bus stop. Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle to school. Walk to school with a friend — and always stay on the sidewalk and look both ways before crossing streets. Parents should be hyper-aware of your surroundings while driving. School traffic is serious business during drop off and pick up.
Start by helping kids learn to read nonverbal cues, so they’ll recognize them in others. Have them look in a mirror and see how their faces look when they’re expressing "angry," "happy" or "scared" feelings. Empower your child with safety strategies if they feel threatened by someone. They can turn and walk away, stay calm and speak in a friendly manner, move to a crowded place, hold up their hand and say, "Stop it," or stand up straight and say, "Leave me alone!" Encourage them to seek help from you, teachers or friends if they've been bullied.
Familiarize younger children or first-time students with the route to school, and go over their new daily routine. Talk with them — more than once! — about how to get to the lunchroom, bathrooms, lockers, gym and bus stop. Learning a new routine — or remembering from the previous school year — can take time for some kids.
Invite new classmates over for a play date so the children can get acquainted. Making friends is an important EQ skill that some kids may need your help to do. Teach simple strategies for entering a group setting — smiling and saying hello, introducing yourself and showing interest by asking questions. If they’re uncomfortable, offer this handy trick: look at the color of the person’s eyes. This promotes eye contact while giving the child something else to think about. Role-play at home so your child feels comfortable making new friends.
If your child is still nervous after the first few weeks, remind him that everyone feels nervous about going back to school, even teachers. Share a personal experience to show that you can identify with how they are feeling. Remind your children about how well they did in school last year and how many friends they made, with more to be made in the coming year. Above all, listen to her concerns with empathy and understanding. Validate feelings without judgment or telling them how they should feel!
Whether you plan an ice cream date or game night, arrange a celebration or two so your children have something to anticipate. Get the entire family involved, and talk about feelings surrounding their new school year.
The school year is such a rich time of mental and emotional growth, adventure, friendship and new experiences. A little preparation and communication helps your kids get started on their best school year yet.
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