Help Your School-Aged Kid Plan for Next Year- Now Posted on June 29, 2022 By: Bradley S. Jerson, PhD Before we know it, school will be in session again. It’s not too early to start thinking about ways to help your child make the most of the move to a new school year this fall. Below are some tips for talking to your kids AND their school teams about what may be most helpful for excitedly “moving up” to the new school year. Want more articles like this from pediatric experts you trust? Sign up for our newsletter. Subscribe Why should I talk to my kids about the next school year already? Transition planning for the next year makes for a smooth start in the fall. For some students, this may be as simple as starting to point out a new part of the school building where they may be next year or introducing them to new faces they haven’t yet met. For others for whom school is a bit more challenging or whose medical or developmental concerns interfere with optimal school functioning, a more comprehensive and thoughtful plan may be necessary. Planning in advance can avoid the need to play “catch up” if things do not go well at the beginning of the year. This is particularly essential for kids moving to a new school. What kinds of questions can I ask my kids about school? Any parent who has ever asked their child, “So, how was school today?” knows that it’s not always easy getting insight into their days. We definitely do not recommend placing spy-cams on their backpacks, so thankfully there are some other ways to get at this. You will be surprised what an open-ended question can do to help you get some insight into their school days and concerns about the next year. There may be many predictions that are quite accurate (bigger school, more work, more class changes) and then there may be others that are more exaggerated because of fears they have from the ways schools look on TV representation or stories they have heard as urban legend within the community. In addition, you might want to use this as an opportunity to demonstrate the things you noticed your child did very well this past year – even if it is not an academic benchmark. Some questions that may be good conversation starters: “Tell me what you think will be different when you start school next year?” “What is something that will be better/easier and what is something that may be worse/harder?” “If you were in charge of your school day, what is one thing you wish were different than this past year?” These alone may allow kids to share thoughts they have about which you may not have been aware were concerns. The answers can help you prepare them for the reality of the changes and also inform efforts the school team can help to make for a positive start to the school year next year. Here is a helpful link: Understood.org – Questions to Ask Your Child About School For all students with special healthcare or educational needs: Coordinating with your child’s team to prepare for the next year is so important. If you haven’t yet done so for this school year, no fear! Some teams operate over the summer through the school districts; even if they do not, preparing to reach out toward to the end of summer is also helpful. This will ensure all 504 or IEP accommodations remain in place, or new ones are developed in response to any difficulties from this year. Get more information about these topics. >Related: 8 Tips to Help Kids With Special Needs Adjust to a New School Year For seniors in high school transitioning to college with special healthcare or learning needs: It is now up to the students to identify themselves as individuals with a medical condition (or other learning issue for which they had received accommodations during high school) to their colleges’ offices of student disabilities. Many students try to “leave the illness at home and start over,” only to see that it catches up with them when crises could have been avoided. Seeking accommodations is not a weakness, but simply levels the playing field to ensure they can succeed as well as everyone else in this new environment. More information about transitioning to college with a disability is available from the U.S. Department of Education. >Related: What’s Next? Helping Your Teen Decide What to Do After High School For students dealing with anxiety around COVID-19: From school quarantines to seasonal respiratory illnesses like the common cold, school can feel a little overwhelming as society continues to ride the many waves of the pandemic. Now is the time to model calm and build confidence if they’re scared or nervous to go back to school. Acknowledge their feelings by asking them what’s on their mind and let them know you’re there to support them. >Related: What to Do When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Go Back to School For students transitioning to a new school: Parents can start to reach out to the new guidance counselor, school nurse, or psychologist to ensure that all relevant team members are aware of your child’s individualized needs if they currently have a 504 or IEP. Even if there is no formalized plan in place, parents should feel comfortable reaching out to the current team to share any concerns or ask clarifying questions about the new school. If they’re not reachable over the summer, no worries! Let your child know that you’ll connect with them once the school year begins. This is an important measure across the developmental spectrum (even pre-K into kindergarten). For students who have experienced excessive teasing or bullying or feel sad or scared about being in school: Unfortunately, bullying continues to be a part of childhood but schools are working hard to take more of a stand against bullying. There are still steps that you can take to ensure a more comfortable, supportive environment for all children. For example, you might consider a simple request for your child to be placed in classes with at least one close friend. This can help your child feel “protected” against possible bullying or depression in school. >Related: Changing How We Talk to Kids About Wearing Masks During COVID-19 Bradley S. Jerson, PhD is a pediatric psychologist at Connecticut Children’s who helps families adjust to the psychosocial aspects of chronic and acute illness, while promoting positive health behaviors to optimize quality of life.