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Phoenix Forward

7 ways to prep your kids for the classroom

Preparing kids for school

A well-behaved child who succeeds academically is a parent’s dream come true. To help meet these goals, parents can reinforce their expectations for school at home, according to child psychotherapist Elizabeth Domingos-Shepard.

“Socially, kids learn their moms’ and dads’ behaviors starting at home,” she says. “What parents do — or don’t do — at home conditions children to understand what appropriate and inappropriate behavior is when they are around others.”

Here, her advice on how to prepare your kids to succeed at school:

1. Stick to a school schedule year-round.

Keep kids on their school routine during the summer and on days off, recommends Domingos-Shepard, who teaches counseling classes at the University of Phoenix Livermore Learning Center in California. Help them maintain sleeping and eating routines so they focus more on lessons than on their grumbling bellies or drooping eyelids, she advises. “Kids tend to perform better overall when they have structure.”

2. Use evenings to help them get organized.

Encourage children the night before a school day to lay out clothes, fill backpacks and pack up homework. Organization helps kids with classroom efficiency, timeliness and participation, Domingos-Shepard says. It also encourages children to take pride in themselves and in their schoolwork.

3. Engage them in quiet, solitary activities.

Parents can enforce daily quiet times at home to teach children an appreciation for silence in the classroom. The key here, Domingos-Shepard notes, is to encourage solitary productive activity, such as reading for a set amount of time. The ability for children to entertain themselves is handy, she adds, when they finish tests early or teachers request quiet.

4. Instill communication skills.

“Kids need social skills to understand what constitutes appropriate behavior and language skills in school,” Domingos-Shepard says. Parents can improve their children’s language and communication, as well as the ability to take directives, by not interrupting speaking adults or playmates, putting down digital devices during conversations and addressing adults in authority as “Miss” or “Mister.”

5. Teach basic personal care.

Help children gain independence by teaching them not to rely on you to tell them when to tend to their personal hygiene. Students who understand when and how to take personal responsibility for washing hands, tying shoes, tucking in shirts and taking care of general bathroom duties tend to be less distracted during lessons, Domingos-Shepard says.

6. Build free time into the schedule.

Spontaneity inspires learning, according to Domingos-Shepard. Free time at home, she explains, helps children mentally organize their worlds while developing a sense of self and language that helps boost academic performance. “When parents push too much structure throughout the day, kids have no way to explore their strengths.”

7. Praise good behaviors.

Children inherently aim to please, Domingos-Shepard says.  Kids, she adds, are more likely to carry over good behavior in the classroom when parents praise them for cooperation, flexibility and rationality at home.

“Kids have wisdom within themselves to figure out what’s right or wrong if we give them a little space and positive reinforcement to do it.”

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