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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Wong

School Year Transition Tips

Starting a new school year is an exciting, daunting, and sometimes overwhelming process for our young people. As parents, it is our role to support independence and provide opportunities for growth and decision making in the home environment, so our young people can problem solve and navigate the school environment with confidence. 

So how do we facilitate independence and decision making? Whether you have a 7 year old, or 17 year old, each new year marks a time to consider what new responsibilities you can model, teach and expect from your child at home. Areas where you can take a further step back as they gain confidence in their new skills. It is so important that we allow for mistakes and teachable moments in the home, so when a situation arises at school our children have the skills and foresight to negotiate these. From forgetting a lunchbox, to remembering room changes, there are some simple steps we can take at home to support capable young people.

Build new skills into routine

Every year provides an opportunity to build more into your child’s routine. For example, brushing teeth in the morning can become brushing teeth then apply sunscreen. It’s never too late to implement a routine in your home. Your child adapts to new routines every school year, often multiple times a day in the secondary setting. The key to a strong routine is consistency and simplicity. Keeping a routine simple might be supported with the use of visual aids or lists. Modeling the use of aids to remain organised is an excellent strategy that your child can apply at school. Routines are also great for managing screen time and building good homework habits. For example, 30 minutes of homework in the morning might be followed by 30 minutes of screen time. The key is consistency. Don’t chop and change the expectations or order of activities. The best routines are the ones discussed and agreed upon by the whole family. This models collaboration, tells the child that their voice and opinion matter, as well as group ownership over the routine making it more likely to be a success. 

2. Model and narrate decision making processes, particularly for conflict

Every day we make hundreds of decisions, and many of these provide opportunities to show our children how and why we make decisions. Try explaining processes while you’re doing them, letting your child see and hear the reasoning behind your actions. This is particularly powerful when you are dealing with conflict. For example, instead of honking the horn and getting frustrated at the driver who cut you off, you might honk the horn and then explain to your child that you are frustrated because the driver put others at risk, or use it as an opportunity to explain why it is so important to have two hands on the wheel and be aware of what drivers around you are doing. If you’ve had a bad day at work, use this as a positive opportunity to explain to your child how you managed the situation and steps you took to resolve a challenging situation. Everything we do in front of our kids is a lesson whether you mean it or not. Consider what strategies you’re modeling for your children and if these will serve them well in the schoolyard. 

3. Open communication, always

Leading on from modeled behaviour is open communication. Our children need to know that home is their safe harbour, a place they can ask questions and talk about school. A great way to facilitate these conversations is to start with a story about a time at school when you had an issue. For example, you might have missed the bus and had to find an alternate solution to getting home. These chats can often turn into your child asking for help with a situation at school, or provide them with the confidence and strategies they may need to employ one day. Try keeping these conversations two way. It’s very easy for these to become a lecture, or for us to get angry at our child for a mistake they made. Bite your tongue, count to 10 and remember that you want your child to always share with you and this will happen less and less if we cut them off or get angry.  

As parents, we want to help our children, to shelter them from negative experiences. However, the more we do this for them, the more we are throwing them in the deep end when it comes to solving their own problems or making good decisions. Allowing our children to experience discomfort and make decisions (not always good ones) in the home, sets them up for greater success when navigating the varying situations in the school environment. 

4. Practice, Practice, Practice

Setting up an area in the house for homework and study is essential for our kids as they get older. Practicing working here during the holidays at the set routine time will help our little people transition when it comes to the real thing. This includes them organising their equipment, getting used to always having a pen, ruler, pencil etc. Taking care of their equipment and workspace will also be of benefit in the classroom as so much valuable learning and instruction time is lost for the kids who are preoccupied looking for a pencil or not starting because they have the wrong books. 

If your child will be catching public transport to school for the first time, be sure to use the holidays to travel the route with them so they’re confident on their own. It’s also important to practice what to do when the bus doesn’t arrive, or if they catch the wrong train. 

Preparing our kids for the transition into the new year begins in the home. This also has big picture benefits. Ultimately, we want our kids to be good humans who know how to look after themselves, respect others with a strong moral compass by the time they move out of home. 

I would love to hear some of your strategies to support strategies for the new school year. 

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