By Rebecca Honig, M.S.Ed. and Françoise Lartigue, M.S.Ed., ParentPowered
This article offers shareable resources to build strong family engagement in early childhood and elementary school during back-to-school season. For support with middle school family engagement, please read this article.
“It’s back to school time!” If you are like me, reading that phrase may have given you a jolt of anxiety. And if you are like me, that anxiety may feel a little EXTRA this year.
The thing that’s bringing me comfort as this first month of school unfolds is remembering my daughter Sadie’s first day of Kindergarten.
In preparation for the big event I had spent months diligently worrying that she would not, in fact, be ready for school. I imagined everything that could go wrong like it was my full time job. I spent hours preparing for unfortunate situations.
What if she’s too shy to ask where her desk is and spends the day hiding in the coat closet because she doesn’t know where to go? What if she gets stuck in a bathroom stall? What if she loses circulation while sitting crisscross applesauce during a really long-read aloud?
It was really exhausting to be soooo great at worrying.
The Banana Plan
When the big day finally arrived my heart was in my throat. I was ready to call the whole thing off. Maybe we could wait another year or two to start this kindergarten thing?
But right as I was about to phone the school and request that we defer kindergarten until Sadie was eight or nine or fifteen, the most amazing thing happened.
Sadie came down from her room all dressed in her “first day outfit,” grabbed her backpack, pulled out her lunchbox, the one I’d packed tight with all her most favorite foods, unzipped it, looked in, and said, “Mom. We need to add a fake banana to this lunch.”
“What?” I asked, totally confused by the request.
“You know the plastic banana from my pretend kitchen? I need to put it in my lunch.” She insisted.
“Why?” I probed.
“Because.” She replied as if the answer was the most obvious thing in the world. “At lunch time I’m going to pull the fake banana out of my lunchbox and say… ‘Oh man… my parents packed me a fake banana for lunch!’ And it’s going to be funny. And THAT is how I’m going to make friends.”
All that time, while I was busy worrying, Sadie was coming up with a wonderful plan. A useful plan. A plan that was going to help her overcome her own anxieties about making friends. A plan that was going to help her feel secure and confident. With that fake banana at her side, Sadie was READY for her first day of school.
While we ALL have experienced transitions in our lives, true to Sadie and her fake banana solution, the strategies we use to navigate them differ. Strategies for coping aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. And my colleague Françoise is here to share some transition tips, insights, and resources as we all try to find our own fake banana strategy.
Resources for Building Back-To-School Success
Whether it’s building friendship with a fake banana or another “just right for you” support strategy, one thing is clear. The transition of going back to school (or starting school for the first time) can be challenging for everyone. Why? It’s simple. The start of something new or different usually brings a change in the habits and routines that we are used to.
We, as humans, thrive on habit and routines. Change, even if it’s something you feel excitement about, can create unease. So adults might find themselves feeling anxious, stressed, or on-edge. And children might experience big feelings that play out in increased crankiness or whining, trouble sleeping, or clinginess—to name a few. The added emotional weight of transitions is real and part of what makes them a challenge to navigate.
Wherever you and the families you serve are during this back-to-school season, ParentPowered is here to support this transitional time with resources. Some we’ve created ourselves using the ParentPowered Way. Feel free to share these easy-to-use and actionable resources with your families. Other resources resonated with us as good sources of concrete information and guidance for families. All are for you to investigate, use, and share. And we hope everyone is able to find their own “fake banana” within these resources.
Let’s Build School Super Skills
School super skills include the ability to organize, plan, and manage time. Plus, learning to pay attention, remember, and have self control. This resource provides easy-to-do, everyday activities parents and caregivers can use to help their child grow and develop these skills.
Getting Ready for School Each Day
Dealing with back-to-school jitters is the focus of this resource. Designed for mobile viewing, it sets out a variety of ways parents and caregivers can support their children during the first few months.
Creating routines is key to helping kids and families navigate the back-to-school transition. This resource, also formatted for phone viewing, offers guiding questions and ideas that families can use in building into their own school routines.
Resources In Our Library
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a helpline for those who are experiencing powerful feelings and stress that make it hard to get through the day. Dial 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to be connected with a counselor. Support is available in English and Spanish