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Very soon the first of many school bells will ring for students around the country marking the official end of summer and the beginning of another academic year. Parents will either cheer or be teary as their children march off, perhaps for the first time to school–kindergarten or college. For many, this will be especially difficult as transitions may not be easy. Adjustments will need to be made.

Perhaps, these strategies will help to make the inevitable changes easier:

College Students

  • If your child is going to college and staying in a dorm, consider packing a few favorite items from home, such as a blanket, preferred pillow or a mug for cocoa. Many parents are now filling digital frames with photos (and some even let you add music). Packages from home with goodies can be fun, too. I always send a PEZ dispenser as a way for my college students to meet new people. (One always can share candy from a fun PEZ!)
  • Don’t forget some essentials such as a first aid kit, emergency numbers programmed into their cell phone and written on paper, a flashlight and a copy of their ID in case their original is lost or stolen.
  • Students entering college who have learning challenges may need some additional time, other than their basic orientation, to familiarize themselves with the campus. Where to park if they are commuting? Where is the health center? How to get from one class to the next? Take time to practice and consider taking photos on a cell phone to be referred to later as landmarks.

Younger Children

  • Visit the school several times before the first official day. This is so helpful as fear is reduced if children can see and walk around their new environment. Take a few photos. Start a photo book or perhaps incorporate the photos into a social story.
  • Try to meet and greet the teachers your child will encounter before the first day of school or when the building is empty of students rushing from place to place. Also, have the teacher walk the child about the room and other important places, such as the cafeteria, gym, health room and playground.
  • Don’t rush out to buy all new school supplies. Sometimes children like their old backpack, lunchbox or clothing. They may take comfort with their old school supplies to help adjust to their new environment.

All Students, Regardless of Age

  • Ask about their school day – each day (for children who are still in the home) and at least weekly for college kids away from home. And when your child is telling about their day- listen. Let their stories unfold instead of asking a lot of questions. Try and help them express their feelings, such as being overwhelmed, scared, happy, left-out, or content. Acknowledge their feelings and try and give concrete strategies to help.

Relax and help your kids have a super school year!