Tips to preparing for a great school year

HARLINGEN — How do you prepare your little one for a successful school year?

The correct answer is tailored to the unique needs of every child. But Alicia Noyola, chief academic officer for the Harlingen school district, has a few tips to get started.

Let them know what to expect when they’re going to school

“A lot of our little ones are pre-Ks or kindergarten students who may be attending school for the first time,” Noyola said. “It’s critical that we give them opportunities to know what to expect.

“Sometimes we recommend parents read books with kids about school. There are a number of elementary books out there about going to school that kind of get kids thinking about what school’s going to be like.”

Noyola encouraged parents to bring their children to “meet the teacher” events before school.

“The student is able to be in that environment and have a little more security in it being a familiar space,” she said.

Keep a positive attitude

Moms and dads should stay positive talking about the new school year, she said.

“It’s not about you ‘having to go back to school’ but really emphasizing the great pieces about going back to school,” she said. Parents should make positive statements such as, “Think about all the things you’re going to learn. Think about how much fun you are going to have.”

Get enough sleep

Noyola said during the summer bedtimes become more flexible, but once school begins those bedtimes should become more structured.

“We really need to get them back into that routine of having a designated sleep time, especially with our little ones,” she said.

“A lot of studies say our little ones need 10 to 12 hours of sleep every night in order to really be at their best. A week or two before school starts we need to get our students back into having those bedtime routines so it’s not a shock the first day of school.”

Good first experience

“We talk about first impressions mattering,” Noyola said. “First experiences matter as well whether the student is starting school for the first time or returning to school. We recommend everything be planned out.

“For example, if that student is taking a backpack, make sure everything they’re going to need is in there. The backpack maybe is by the front door so they’re not scrambling last minute that morning. When we plan, everything seems so smooth. The same thing applies for that first day.”

Maintain composure on the first day

“Let’s talk about little ones that are starting school the first time,” she said. “Occasionally there are going to be some tears. We always recommend that parents stay very confident during that time.

“If a student senses that the parent is worked up, then the student is going to pick up on that.”

Parents shouldn’t stay too long, she said.

“The sooner we allow the teacher to distract the student and get them going into the routine the sooner the crying will subside. If the parent is still sticking around a little too long because they’re seeing their child crying, it delays the student getting into the flow of school.”

Ask about their day, and be specific

Parents like to know how the school day went when their child gets home, but Noyola advised against asking such broad questions as “How was your day?”

“We suggest they ask more specific questions, like ‘What stories did you read to day? What did you have for lunch? What did you do in PE?’” she said.

“When we ask specific questions we get specific answers. That is a recommendation that keeps them connected and also gives them a view on what the actual school day was like.”