Mother and daughter outside school
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It's never easy leave the carefree fun of summer and head back to the structure and rules of the classroom, but with a simple list of back-to-school dos and don'ts from teachers and child development professionals across the country, you can help your child have a successful school year and—yes—even enjoy being back in the classroom.

Do help children transition from summer to school. According to Marcy Willard of the Child Family and School Psychology program at the University of Denver: "Parents can help their children be ready for school by attending back-to-school night and/or taking your child on a tour of the school and the classroom he'll be attending. These activities go a long way to reduce anxiety in kids on the first day of school."

Do introduce yourself to the teacher. "The most important thing you can do in school is stay engaged in your child's education," says National PTA president Charles J. "Chuck" Saylors. "When you build partnerships with teachers, administrators and other parents, your child reaps the benefits, from improved grades to stronger self-esteem."

Do keep the learning going outside the classroom. "Any activity is an opportunity for learning," Marcy says. "Count soccer balls, for example. 'If I had 10 soccer balls and I took seven away, how many would I have left?'"

Do build up your child's self-esteem. "As educators, we're told to offer praise and constructive criticism in a 5:1 ratio," says Erin Pier of the Clayton Early Learning Center in Colorado. "I've learned that when this rule is followed, children are much happier and confident, and thus more willing to hear where they could improve." So, praise your child's efforts, listen when she talks, celebrate her creativity, applaud her good behavior, leave notes of encouragement in her backpack and make every effort to build her confidence.

Get a list of back-to-school don'ts
Don't wait until school starts to establish a routine. A week or so before the first day of school, start getting your children used to the upcoming weekday schedule with earlier bedtimes and more consistency in the evening routines. Start keeping all routine items—like the child's backpack and shoes—in the same location so there's no panic over misplaced items, and set up a station where your child can put all important papers, notices, letters, tests and permission slips once school starts. Doing this now will help your child feel more prepared and confident when the first day rolls around.

Don't go in ready to fight. "Many parents have been told by support groups, society and the media that they have to be ready to fight for their child. They've been told that the school system isn't going to do what is right for their child," says early childhood special education teacher Erin Jackle. "In most cases, it's absolutely not true. Even it you've been told that you'll have a fight on your hands, don't go in assuming that the teacher is your enemy. The students I've had who have made the most progress always come from the families that are willing to work as part of a team and collaborate with teachers and staff. We really are here to help. We wouldn't have gone into this field if we weren't."

Don't set unrealistic expectations. Every parent wants her child to succeed, but setting your expectations too high, according to the National PTA, can be detrimental to your child. When children are pushed beyond what they're ready for, they lose confidence in themselves and become afraid to take risks. So, be realistic about what you can expect from your child and don't hesitate to meet with your child's teacher to discuss what those expectations should be.

Don't wait until the parent-teacher conference to see how your child is doing. If you'd like to get more information about your child's performance in the classroom, discuss an issue you're noticing or get a general update, reach out to the teacher. "Parents should know that you have the right to ask questions about how your child is doing in school!" Marcy says. "The teacher may provide her email address or phone number. Use it."


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