Opinion: School Jitters

Opinion: School Jitters

Most children in our region experienced their first day of school this week. Back to school is an exciting time for students as they shop for new clothes and supplies, learn their schedules, play sports, and meet new teachers. It can also be a stressful time since a new school year means change.

For children with special challenges and their parents, this is especially the case. Every year at PHILLIPS Programs for Children and Families - a Fairfax-based nonprofit that provides customized support and education, we work closely to make the transition smoother for the hundreds of youth we serve through our Special Education Day Schools and other programs. These are youth who struggle with academic, emotional or behavioral issues, so working closely with them at the beginning of the school year is important to starting the year off right.

While we specialize in helping children with special needs and abilities, we know that some of the advice we give our parents would benefit other children too. Here are our top five tips to help your family start the school year off well:

  1. Get your child excited about school by involving them in purchasing supplies but be sure to provide them with choices and a budget.

  2. Create structured time for homework and have needed supplies but let the child (with adult support) determine the best time to do homework as some need a break when they get home.

  3. Create a bedtime expectation that electronics get turned off and stored at night.

  4. Check-in with classroom staff and communicate any needs or concerns as well as find out the best communication method (email, phone, or weekly reports) for your child’s teacher.

  5. Designate a place in your home for storing schoolwork, lunches and papers that need to be returned to reduce last minute panic.

In addition, it’s a good idea for you to learn what services your child may be eligible for by going to the counseling/guidance office for assistance or to reach out to your local Parent Education Advocacy Training Center office.

The partnership you create between your family, the school, and teachers will pave the way for your child to have a great year. With first day jitters minimized, your child can focus on developing critical life skills that lead to respect, acceptance and personal achievement.