How Parents Can Prepare Their Children For School

“Parents are crucial to the well-being of their kids at school.” 

By Dr. Sharon Aitken

The start of a new academic year can be an exciting and stressful time for children and parents alike. Educational Psychologist Dr. Sharon Aitken believes that parents play a massive role in helping their children to reach their full potential at school and shares more advice in this article.

Many parents are told that children need to learn to manage themselves, but human brains are only fully adult from early to mid-20s (20-25 years). In addition, EVERY working adult (including teachers) that I know is supervised, so why would we leave children unsupervised? Do not rely on age as a guide to what children should be able to do as each child develops differently. Rather focus on what your child is actually able to do and provide the necessary supervision and support at that level regardless of age. For example, girls enter puberty approximately 2 years before boys. Thus, by the time a boy enters puberty, a girl is usually 2 years ahead in her ability to self-manage, although they are the same age.

Time management and organisational skills are NOT usually taught at school. Parents must teach these skills throughout the child’s schooling slowly shifting from doing most of the organising and planning to a supervisory role as the child develops the skills and maturity to self-manage.

Watch the full segment with Dr Sharon Aitken here:

Key Areas Parents Are Responsible For: 

1. Before school starts make sure that your child has everything they need for school well ahead of time- not the day before school starts. If you leave this preparation until the last minute, you are telling your child that it’s ok for school activities to be left until the last minute and that school isn’t really important. It is important to start the year off in an organised manner as this sets the tone for the rest of the year.

2. Good communication with the teachers and school is essential, otherwise, you will not know what is expected of your child. So you need to attend parent-teacher and class-parent meetings. Again, if you don’t attend these, your child will interpret this to mean that school is not important. If there is a WhatsApp group make sure you are on it. Read the School Letters and look at the school’s online diary. Make sure that YOU know when things are happening. Set up meetings with the teachers if you have concerns about your child’s progress.

3. Organising and planning (a few simple ideas):
• Write up a weekly timetable of subjects and extra-curricular activities and then make a packing list for each day so that your child knows what to pack for school the next day (don’t pack bags in the morning- it’s usually a disaster). Both the timetable and the packing list must be placed where the child can read them. If the child cannot read yet, then use pictures. Depending on the child’s level of development, you will pack the bag, you will help the child pack or you will check afterwards that the bag has been correctly packed.
• Have a wall calendar on which any events that involve your children or other family members are clearly marked so that you are prepared and can manage possible clashes in schedules ahead of time. Make sure that assessment, tests and examination days are clearly marked so revision starts on time.
• When applicable start teaching your child time and project management skills. These are unlikely to be taught at school. 
• Once a week make time with your child to look at what is coming up over the next few weeks and involve them in the planning.
• Good communication with the school will alert you to changes in the school’s planning.

For more, visit Dr. Sharon Aitken’s website here.

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