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Four Questions Not to Ask Your Child about Returning to School

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by Dr. Kyle Pruett, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

While the return of a schedule for which you are not responsible and a little less chaos overall can make us welcome sending our children back to school, we can’t guarantee a smooth transition. A common temptation is to start grilling our offspring about school readiness stuff in a well-meaning attempt to anticipate trouble and cut it off at the root. Examples of some things a four-year-old might say to some seemingly innocent inquiries from mom or dad include, “I don’t know if I want to see my friends yet.” “I liked being at home with you every day.” Here are four questions you may want to reconsider asking:

1. Are you excited about going back to school?

Most preschoolers feel a mix of emotions: excitement, uncertainty, curiosity or fear and not all at the same time, so it’s hard to answer this one directly. Instead, let them overhear you talking to family or friends about getting ready to send them back and some of your mixed feelings just to let them know this is an okay topic. Doing this may help encourage them to ask their questions about going back, to which you can then listen carefully and deal with where your children are about going back, not just where you are.

2. Do you want to practice your letters and numbers to get ready for school?

Isn’t this tempting since you know practice might help them in reentry? Instead, it often makes a preschooler think he or she is already a little behind because he or she hasn’t been doing his or her due diligence. Instead, before your child heads back, start saying things like, “Can you find the letter A in the billboards along the road?” Playing small games may help him or her get back in the swing of identification without feeling like it’s a getting-ready-for-school thing and is more a growing-up thing.

3. Anything special you want to do before school begins again?

Of course, we want to please our kids by giving them what they want, but this question carries with it the idea that something serious is about to happen, and they’d better get in their goodbyes. Instead, use the last long weekend for family time that is more laid back than what is to come when school starts. Talk about how much these times mean to you as a mom, dad or family and how you look forward to more of them.

4. When you do want to start getting ready to go to bed earlier to get ready for school mornings?

This question may seem like you are trying to partner up with them on this issue, but it’s just better to get it started without their consent, which you are pretty unlikely to obtain.