By popular demand, here is a follow-up post in my back-to-school series. I wrote about teens yesterday, but many folks have elementary age kids, and they have just as many (more?) questions and issues as those of us with middle and high-school age kids.
So I went back to some of my writing that I did back in the day, and actually some of these tips and tricks are pretty good! Take a look:
Calm it down: Excitement and terror seem to be one-and-the same for the younger set – particularly those in kindergarten and first grade. The vast unknown wreaks havoc, and the build-up of strangers and friends/relatives alike (“You’re starting KINDERGARTEN!? MY HOW EXCITING!”) can make the imagination run wild. Try to be low key about things. Offer lots of hugs and smiles, without trying to tell them what it’s going to be like.
Make time for questions: I made it a point to spend a few extra minutes with my girls alone. This was easiest at bedtime when I tucked them in. I would just ask how their day was, if there was anything they wanted to tell me, or how they were feeling. If there was something on their mind, it was easy for them to bring it up since no one else was around. I would just listen, and rarely offer any solutions or advice (that’s not really what they wanted anyway. Our house was – and is – always so busy that having a chance to just voice a thought was hard for them, so this was a good time for me to sit and listen.)
I know that my separation from the younger elementary age doesn’t give me the opportunity to offer too much specific advice. So I enlisted the help of a friend! Arianne is a mom of four – one 5th grader and triplets who are starting the 2nd grade. Here are some VERY helpful tips from her on getting ready for the start of a new school year:
A week before school starts, we get back to a schedule and try to get a routine going so getting up in the morning is not such a shock to their system.
The night before school we spend some time talking about the golden rule and stress the importance of being kind to everyone. Even those that may not be so kind to us. I tell them stories about when I was their age and my experiences at school. I had moved several times so I was the new girl at 3 separate schools. I experienced being bullied and trying to make friends and what it meant to me when people showed me kindness during that time.
There is a great book for kids called “Have you filled a bucket today?” By filling other people’s buckets with love & kindness they in turn fill others and so on. And a byproduct of filling someone’s bucket is that it also fills your own. So we talk a lot about what they did to fill other people’s buckets that day.
We have a tradition of taking pictures the 1st day of school and going out to a fun dinner followed by ice cream. It’s a celebration they look forward to.
We ask each kid to pick where they would like to do their homework and then set up their space with pencils, crayons, erasers and sharpeners that they get to pick out. Being able to set up their own space helps them feel empowered, and they are excited to do homework.
Each night during dinner we go around the table and talk about 1 high and 1 low of our day. This generates lots of discussion and gives us insight into their classroom and classmate dynamics.