Schoolteacher Jane Anderson Lemoine has lots of back-to-school stories- kids falling asleep in class and drooling all over their desks, a boy accidentally going to two social studies classes per day for a whole week and not telling anyone, and one five year-old who was so scared it took three adults to coax him into his first day of class. Yes, getting back to school can be exciting, but given the swarm of deer-in-the-headlights kids (and teachers and parents), there’s goof-ups too.
August 8 is the first day in Lafayette parish, so when reading this you’re already behind! First things first- get your children into their doctor. They’ll need physicals for school and sports, and maybe vaccines. Some need medications for school, like asthma inhalers or ADHD meds. Many kids must have these things, so appointments are tight. Make that call now! Some walk-in clinics provide some of these services, but NOT the Emergency Department.
Your child may also need a new backpack. If so, this isn’t something to skimp on. Though the jury’s out on whether they contribute to kids’ back pain, you’ll want a comfortable one. It should have wide, padded shoulders, and a waist strap. The waist strap is very important, because weight is best carried on the hips, not the shoulders. Whatever the current school fashion, heavily-loaded kids should have both shoulder straps on, and the waist strap buckled and cinched.
As the 8th approaches, it’s also time to get children back on a school sleep schedule. Start walking those bedtimes back from midnight to something more appropriate- 8 or 9 pm for elementary kids (at the very latest!), 10 pm for teens. They also need to start waking up sooner. A week before school starts, wake them at 10 am instead of noon, then 9, then 8, and so on. Bedtime also means phones and other screens off! Leave enough time for breakfast before school. Kids don’t learn or behave well on an empty stomach! Finally, you should always be reading books with your young children at bedtime. They learn to read, acquire more words, have family time, and wind down for sleep.
Besides the physical preparations for school we discussed above, you’ll want to prepare your child psychologically too. Kids are nervous- is my new teacher nice? Can I handle the workload? Who’ll be in my class? Some kids are also terrified of being bullied. Worse than hard homework or frowning teachers, is the prospect of public humiliation and violence. No wonder some kids stay home with “stomachaches.”
Bullying takes a toll. Many ruminate on their victimization for years after. A significant percentage of school shooters were loners, outcasts from school cliques, picked on for being different. Prepare your child to not be victimized. Shy kids need to rehearse what they’ll say and do if bullied, so that they confidently deflect attempts at humiliation; practice where to go, where not to go, which friends and school personnel will help.
Besides victims, bullying also requires bullies, and passive bystanders. Don’t let your kid be either one! Teach them that bullies are the bad guys. Before school, be clear that there’s firm consequences if they bully- grounding, detention, phones and video games revoked. Don’t threaten them with violence, since this begats violence in them. Also talk about how bystanders who intervene on behalf of victims are the brave ones,the good guys. Encourage them to sway crowds to protect victims- there’s safety in numbers for victims and bystanders.
Fortunately, most kids only have the usual nerves- new teachers, new classes, new classmates. The best preparation for this- meet your teacher! Jane Anderson Lemoine, our schoolteacher from above, tells of a kid who went a whole week going to two social studies classes, wandering from one to the other, hearing the same lesson twice. When she discovered this, he hadn’t said anything to anyone about it, and the parents were clueless. If only someone had double-checked his schedule.
Meet the teachers, so you become allies in your child’s school experience. It’s better to get to know each other in the beginning, instead of later when you’re irate about bad grades or conduct notices. Know how they communicate, with students and parents. Email, text, school website, phone? If your kid takes the bus, meet the driver too. The driver is a VIP, taking your child through traffic, twice daily, for all year!