The ABC's of Back to School for Parents

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Updated on Aug 19, 2013

As the new school year begins, we all want to encourage success for our children. However, getting books and backpacks can sometimes overshadow the little things that make for a smooth and successful start to the school year. Here's an alphabetical guide to the 26 details not to forget this Back to School season.

  • A. Ask questions. Ask your child about her day at school. Try to ask questions that encourage more than yes-or-no answers. What did you learn? Who did you sit with at lunch? What books did the teacher read to you?
  • B. Breakfast. Kids learn best when they’ve had a nutritious breakfast. Schools often remind parents of this on testing days, but it’s important for kids to get off to a good start every day.
  • C. Communication. Communicate with your child’s teacher. Share your concerns, what you feel is working well for your child, and ask for clarification if something is unclear.
  • D. Dates. Check dates of school holidays and plan accordingly. Calendars vary by district.
  • E. Effort. Praise your child’s best efforts. Not every child is a straight-A student. Let her know how proud you are when your child has truly done her best.
  • F. Friends. Get to know your child’s friends, and encourage relationships with those who are a positive influence.
  • G. Guidance counselor. Ask the school guidance counselor to talk with your child if she seems stressed by the birth of a sibling, the loss of a family member, or school relationships.
  • H. Homework. Provide a quiet place that is free of distractions, and help your child as needed, without doing the work for her.
  • I. Illness. Keep your child home if she is sick. Germs spread quickly in a classroom, and one sick child quickly becomes 25 sick children.
  • J. Jot a note. Be sure to send a written excuse when your child is absent. Too many unexcused absences can affect your child’s grades, or raise concerns of truancy.
  • K. Know the rules. Be familiar with school rules, policies and dress code. If the code of conduct isn’t sent home with your child, check for it online.
  • L. Listen. Really listen when your child talks to you. Put down the newspaper, turn off the TV, close the laptop and listen.
  • M. Make choices. With your child, choose which after-school activities are the most important. Kids need downtime, time for balanced meals and plenty of sleep.
  • N. Newsletter. Read school and classroom newsletters regularly.  
  • O. Open House. Attend your school's open house. Find out what’s going on in your child’s class, get to know the teacher and look over your child’s work samples.
  • P. Praise good behavior. It’s easy to take positive behavior for granted, but good kids need to be praised for following the rules.
  • Q. Quality time. Busy lives make quality family time hard to find. Eat dinner together, go for a walk or play a game with your child.
  • R. Read your child’s textbooks. Glance through the table of contents to find out what will be taught. Then talk about what your child is learning to help build excitement and make connections with the topics.
  • S. Smile. Mornings can be hectic, and a lot of kids bring this stress into the classroom with them. Try to send your child off with a smile and a hug to set a positive tone for the day.
  • T. Tardiness. In some schools, a certain number of tardy slips count as an unexcused absence.  Be careful!
  • U. Update the teacher. If there are things going on that are affecting your child, let the teacher know. Kids react to separations, friends moving away and the loss of a pet. Teachers can offer extra sympathy, understanding and support.
  • V. Volunteer. If your schedule permits, offer to help in the classroom each week. If not, help from home by typing the class newsletter, cutting out art projects or planning class parties. A parent’s involvement in the classroom promotes success in school. For more volunteering ideas, check out A Guide to Getting Involved at Your Child’s School.
  • W. Website. Check out the school website. You’ll find important information, changes in dates and suggestions for ways to support your child.
  • X. Don’t focus on the X’s. When graded work is returned, don’t focus on the problems that are marked wrong. Rather than saying, “You only missed 7,” say, “You got 93 right!”
  • Y. Yell and shout. Be your child’s biggest cheerleader when your child scores on the football field, participates in the science fair or recognizes all of the letters of the alphabet. Your praise is more precious than any prize or sticker from the teacher.
  • Z. Zip your mouth. When you disagree with the teacher, go to her directly to discuss your concerns. Venting these frustrations in front of your child will undermine the teacher in your child’s eyes, and cause confusion. Work out your differences privately.
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