Getting a good start in 2020

I know it’s hard to believe that we are almost back at school! The summer has flown by and many of us may still be finishing the Christmas ham. But it’s time to start thinking about school uniforms, book bags and bedtime routines again.

There will, of course, be thousands of families for whom this is not a priority, and who are starting the year without homes, schools or who may have lost family or loved ones in the bushfire tragedies. Even if you have not been directly affected, your children may be experiencing anxiety, distress or uncertainty. This is a normal reaction and there are wonderful resources to help you talk to your children about bushfires from The Victorian Government and Autism Tasmania.

As you move toward the new school year, many parents may be worried about the struggle of getting children back to their usual bed time routine, and making sure they have a positive start. This is particularly true if your child struggled last year. Below are my top five tips for a great start to the new school year:

  1. Get into a routine early! Your child may have gone to bed later, spent more time on devices or eaten a different diet. Now is the time to get some routines in place so they are ready for the new year. If your child is about to start school and has not worn a uniform before, make sure they get used to this, particularly if they have sensory issues. Do a run through of packing bags and lunch boxes. Try to iron out the kinks before that first day!
  2. Get organised. These days most schools will have some form of homework from the first year of school. This is on top of extra-curricular activities and your child’s need for play. Make sure you have a space for your child to do their work and time set aside to do this. Getting into good habits early will reduce the homework battle later on. Use visual schedules and calendars to help your child plan their day and show them how to use these. If you are well organised, your children will learn to be.
  3. Meet with teachers. This won’t be necessary for everyone, and it may be that there is another adult in the school who is a better contact. But this is very important if your child has any additional needs. Do not assume the teacher will have seen any reports by specialists, ask them.
  4. Encourage risk taking (in learning). “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” Children learn by trial and error, and by observing others. In order to encourage your children to have a go at new things and to practice, you need to do the same yourself. A lot of what we teach our children we do without even realising so make sure you use the language of growth when talking about their learning: focus on effort over accuracy; encourage them to compare themselves to their past, not to others; and use ‘two stars and a wish’ to get them to reflect on what they have done well (stars) and what they would improve next time (wish).
  5. Seek help early. If your child is struggling, seek help early. It may be that there is a need for more support from the teacher, or you and the school may feel further assessment is needed. The earlier you get help, the earlier your child will get support.

Let us know your top tips for the school year including brilliant organisation hacks below!

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