“Reading is the best way to prepare for all subjects,” test preparation specialist Beth Bristow told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Find out about their required summer reading, then pick a book to read together or to have a ‘book club’ meeting every week or so, either in person or virtually, to talk about it,” said Bristow, who is the owner of Beth Bristow Tutorial Services, a learning center in Vinings.
“If there is not required summer reading, pick out a book to read together that you will both enjoy.”
Develop a morning routine
One important first step for kids to go back to school is setting up a morning routine. You can be the one supervising it or you could assist in another way, according to parenting educator and former school teacher Laura Linn Knight.
“Let the children contribute so they feel involved in the process, versus so much telling them ‘Go get in the car’ later on,” Knight told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“That will help decrease the power struggles and also get more active engagement.”
This routine should be re-evaluated and tweaked as needed.
“It’s important to practice and be patient when you are taking time to teach them these skills that are going to last them throughout their lives,” said Knight, who is the author of the upcoming book “Break Free from Reactive Parenting.”
Help them get organized
Grandparents raising their grandchildren may already have a dedicated home school space from the days of distance learning, but it may need reorganizing before the new school year.
“Make certain they have proper lighting, a structured space and necessary supplies,” Bristow said.
Grandparents who aren’t an everyday presence can encourage organization with the gift of tools such as a backpack, or an academic planner, according to Bristow.
“In my family, ‘Granny’ makes this a fun outing to pick out something together,” she said.
Licensed practical nurse and school nurse Christy Smith, who is based near Chattanooga, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that some nostalgic chats can ease anticipatory stress for kids.
“Share a little anecdote about a favorite teacher, or a despised teacher, or a captivating story about a class bully ... and accompany that with some sage advice about navigating school life.”
At the same time, Smith said to pause to let your grandchild tell you how their experience might differ from your school days.
Watch and listen
Whether you’re in charge of the schedule or just offering an assist with transportation, try not to overschedule your grandkids. “And bring them home in time to decompress after the school day,” Knight said.
“Whether it’s while you’re having a snack or building Legos, create pockets of time for one-on-one connection, where you can tune in to what they’re feeling and saying, and pick up the non-verbal cues.”
Back-to-school shopping may provide a non-confrontational time to listen and observe, Smith said.
“On a practical or even ritualistic level, my aunt takes each grandchild separately to do back-to-school shopping. I think that is a fun tradition and would provide the perfect opportunity to talk about some anticipatory jitters, fears, or uncertainties. It would also give an annual opportunity to think about some goals for the year or look back at your goals from the past years.”
Be available for quiet emotional support
Kids returning to school can face an overwhelming amount of stress, Knight said, and grandparents can help offset it.
“As adults, we can feel really excited, ‘Yay, new grade!’” she said. “We forget that for children the transition can make them nervous or afraid. They can have anticipatory or separation anxiety, too.”
When school starts, Knight says don’t overschedule them.
“Bring them home in time to decompress. And build in pockets of time for one-on-one connection. Whether that’s while you’re all eating a snack or playing legos, tune in to what they’re feeling and saying, and try to pick on nonverbal cues.”
Offer their parents ongoing support
If you’re not quite hands-on with your grandkids, the start of school is a good time to make some improvements.
“For grandparents who haven’t been as present, today is the perfect day to start,” Knight said.
For long-distance grandparents, Knight recommended a consistent FaceTime call once a week, perhaps combined with a calming art session for adult and child alike.
Before you initiate more school day activities — particularly if you haven’t been present in the kids’ lives — make sure to reach out to their parents or guardians first, Knight said. You can schedule a phone call or meeting in person.
“Let them know that you realize you haven’t been as involved and then ask, ‘What could I do to support you as a parent? What could I do to support the kids with school?’ Come into the conversation saying, ‘I’m here to be helpful.’”
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