The return of the month of September can mean only one thing for parents and children up and down the country: it’s time to go back to school!
Following on from the Covid-19 pandemic and multiple lockdowns, this autumn term will surely be different from any that has gone before. With this in mind, we look into six tried-and-tested ways to facilitate as smooth a transition back into the classroom as possible for your child.
According to The 90% Reading Goal, three quarters of American third graders (ages
8-9) reading below a second grade level will fail to graduate from high school.
As graduating high school on average equates to a $351,000 increase in lifetime
earnings, we can see the significance of a child’s ability to read from an early age.
Having reading time directly before bedtime every day is an efficient method to promote regular reading. Let your child dictate how and what you read if need be – the important thing is that they become accustomed with the written word and improve their language skills daily.
Of course, in today’s electronically-advanced world, some children may have an immediate aversion to books and reading. A good way around this is by investing in some personalised material. These types of books feature your child as part of the story (often as the hero), making them seem instantly more special and engaging in the eyes of your child; how can they resist finding out the ending of a story about themselves!
Studies have shown that the quality of a child’s sleep can directly correlate to their behaviour, memory, attention span and capacity for learning, as well as overall physical and mental health. Sleep deprivation can lead to a multitude of health problems, such as obesity, high blood pressure and depression.
Primary school age children should be getting between nine and twelve hours of sleep every night. Aim for the higher end of that range and plan ahead; going to bed at the same time every night (i.e. having a “bedtime”) reinforces the body’s circadian rhythms, keeping internal systems strong and energised throughout the day.
If sleep is one half of the fuel for your child’s learning, the other is food. Feelings of hunger go hand-in-hand with diminished levels of concentration, making it harder to operate at an efficient level in the classroom.
The first step is of course to ensure your child enjoys a healthy, nutritious breakfast to start off their day. Complex carbohydrates like those found in porridge and bran release energy slowly, keeping the body balanced for longer. Refined, sugary foods, found in many commercial breakfast cereals, offer a quick energy spike, followed by a crash. For the same reason, it’s a good idea to minimise any child’s intake of sweets, chocolate and fizzy drinks.
It’s also imperative to ensure your child doesn’t skip meals. If they don’t want a school dinner, provide them with a packed lunch (or vice versa). Focus on fruits and vegetables wherever possible.
Exercise is a vital component of any healthy life, and the sooner we get started, the better. Exercise helps a growing child develop stronger bones and muscles, as well as restricting the possibility of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
On top of this, exercise can be fun! Use it as an opportunity to explore what types of physical activity your child enjoys and excels at; who knows, maybe you have the next David Beckham or Serena Williams on your hands!
Playing sports and games as part of exercise also prepares a child for engaging in P.E. lessons at school, which can at times be daunting for some.
As previously mentioned, the technological boom of the last few decades has placed a whole universe of opportunity and content right at your child’s fingertips. While many apps, programs and videos can be educational and help develop cognitive reasoning skills, the World Health Organisation preaches a “less is better” approach.
In fact, studies indicate that high levels of screen time amongst five-year-olds was linked to “multiple psychosocial problems” such hyperactivity, attention difficulties and emotional internalising. Whether it’s a mobile phone, tablet, computer, games console or even just the TV, err on the side of caution and make sure that a large amount of your child’s time outside of school isn’t spent staring at a screen.
Returning to school after six weeks off is a major routine upheaval for any child. Studies suggest parents in general fail to recognise signs of stress in their children. This can be due to children finding it much harder to articulate their feelings, which can in turn lead to their acting out instead.
If your child suddenly appears clingy, tries to avoid or escape the classroom, or regresses to behaviour such as thumb sucking, baby talk or playing with preschool toys, it may be time to talk to a teacher or school counsellor.
But in any case, even if everything is fine, it’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on your child’s mood and happiness as they progress through the many ups and downs of their school life.