KINGSTON — Getting the new school year off to a good start can influence children's attitude, confidence and performance, both socially and academically. The transition from summer holidays to September is often difficult for both children and parents, because holidays are carefree, while back-to-school means a more structured environment.
Although children may be eager to return to school, they must adjust to the greater levels of activity, structure and challenges associated with school life. The degree of adjustment depends on the child, but parents can help their children manage the increased pace of life, by planning ahead, being realistic and maintaining an encouraging approach.
The Ministry of Education is taking a proactive stance and is asking parents and guardians not only to buy the books, bags, uniforms and shoes, but to also provide basic information which can assist them in preparing for back-to school, says Senior Education Officer in the Guidance and Counselling Unit of the Ministry of Education, Antoinette Brooks.
First, parents are advised to start a school sleeping schedule for the child. Children should get into the routine of going to bed earlier, a few days before school starts – early to bed, early to rise. Acclimatizing the child to the good sleeping habits prior to school, will help get the year started smoothly.
Second, the safety of the child, going to and coming from school, should be a priority. Parents should review the child’s route to school, according to Mrs. Brooks, and if the child walks to school, make sure he/she knows the safest, most direct route.
“Walk with your child a few times before school starts, so he/she is completely comfortable with the route, and children who are from the same community should be encouraged to travel together,” she noted.
Mrs. Brooks also stated that parents who make arrangements for their children to be transported to and from school, must put the proper mechanism in place.
“They need to sit with the children and speak with them. Tell them that if, at any time, another vehicle comes to pick them up, they should not go with them. They should go to the principal or class teacher and report it,” she cautioned.
“If someone else is scheduled to pick up the child, both the school and the child must be advised of this arrangement. This person should go to the principal, or the home room teacher, before taking the child off the school premises,” she added.
Mrs. Brooks is asking older children, especially those at the secondary level, to take responsibility for their safety.
“If you are travelling in vehicles that are going too fast, ask the driver to stop and get off the vehicle. Students should also be encouraged to leave home early, so that they do not have to rush and take unsafe vehicles,” she said.
Parents should also set a time when the children are expected to be home from school. They should be aware of any co-curricular activities that would cause the child to come home late. The school should inform the parents of these extra activities. Parents must communicate with the school and their children.
“Ensure that your child has your contact information; both the child and the school should know how to reach parents and guardians during the day. Everybody has a cellphone so parents must make sure that school has an up-to-date contact number that is working, and an address so, in case of any difficulty, the school can get in touch with them,” said Mrs Brooks.
It is important that both the parent and child know and understand the rules that govern children's behaviour on and off the school premises. Children must be encouraged by their parents to follow the rules, if they are not clear on any of the rules, talk with the principals, teachers and guidance counsellors, she stated.
Thirdly, Mrs. Brooks encourages parents to build relationships with their children.
“Let the children know that you are a partner in their education process,”: she suggested.
She said parents must be inquisitive. Check the children’s bags and books, ensure they are going to school, visit the school and check with the teachers to know what is happening. They must also see that appropriate uniforms are worn to school, at all times.
By Judith Hunter, JIS PR Officer