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Principals have suggestions for parents of students making transitions

by Merrie Leininger

If your child is making that big leap to kindergarten or from elementary to middle school, they might have a larger case of first-day jitters than usual.

To help your child through this, Douglas County school principals have some suggestions.

Scarelli Elementary Principal Betsy Palmer said parents have to help their children by getting excited about the first day of school and showing them they feel school is very important.

“The key is for parents, even though they may be thinking they are going to miss their child so much, to project a positive image,” Palmer said. “Say things like, ‘Wow, this is so exciting. Think of all the friends you will make and how much you will learn.'”

She said even if parents are feeling the same separation anxiety, they shouldn’t let it show.

“They might feel a little teary-eyed, but if the kids see their parents crying, they aren’t going to understand and may think ‘What’s wrong with this place that it’s making my parent cry?'” she said.

On the first day of school, she advises being excited about starting school, but just drop them off and leave.

“Let us deal with it. If parents hang back, it encourages it,” Palmer said.

Later, once a child has settled in, parents are welcome additions to the class, Palmer said. Many of the kindergarten parents volunteer in the classroom and are very helpful to the teachers.

“It sends a message to the children that their parents think school is important,” she said.

Palmer also encouraged parents to come to the school’s family nights and bring their child with them.

Before the child begins school, she encourages parents to take trips with their child, discuss things with them and read to them.

“Take them to places, interact with them. Turn off the TV and engage in conversation with your child,” Palmer said.

She suggested taking them to regular everyday places like a grocery store, a farm or a police station and talk to them about what you are doing and how things work.

“You don’t even have to go to other places, talk about the bugs you find in the house,” she suggested. “Doing things in the home is just as important. Give them as many sensory experiences as possible.”

She said socialization with other children can help them, although children have come into the school and learn to be comfortable with other students on their own.

n Sharing interests. Carson Valley Middle School Principal Roger Gerson said some students can be nervous about starting middle school, but if parents put a lot of energy into their interests, it can help.

“Our newsletter is written by teachers, and parents can read it to review what has just been completed and what will be happening so they can keep updated,” Gerson said. “The biggest thing is just to show an interest. Sit down, turn the TV off, ask them, ‘What are you up to?’ Really give them your undivided attention. It really makes an impression.”

Gerson said another idea is to sit down with your child and review the student handbook as soon as they get a copy on the first day of school. That helps both the parent and the student understand the rules of the school and what is expected of the student.

He said parents should try to get their children to share their problems and triumphs of the day with them on a regular basis.

Avoid asking them questions that can answered with a yes or no.

“Ask them what was the best thing that happened today, what was the hardest assignment,” Gerson said.

Parents can also come and visit the school. Plan a time during the first quarter to come in and meet the teachers. Or come to the school on Parents’ Night Sept. 16. Parents have an opportunity to get an overview of the year’s curriculum and an idea of activities their child is participating in.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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