There are a lot of mixed feelings at the beginning of the school year. Some kids are excited and love going to school to see their friends and meet their new teachers. However, more anxious and socially reserved kids would much rather stay in the safety of their homes. Most kids will fall somewhere in the middle of this range of extremes, but regardless going back to school is an adjustment that takes time.
However, it’s not just our kids who can feel stressed at this time of year. Teachers and childcare workers have new classroom dynamics to work out and parents often struggle with getting everyone to school and work on time. With all of the stress, it can be very easy to consider “skipping a day” and trying again tomorrow, or taking a “sick day” just to prolong the return to full-time school. However, attendance is important, and it’s always good to get off on the right foot and start the year with a focus on making attendance a priority.
September is Attendance Awareness Month and a great time to monitor attendance habits and come up with a plan to limit the number of days your child will have to take off of school. Attendance is essential for helping kids learn and feel better about themselves and going to school. Regular attendance in school or childcare programs helps kids develop a healthy routine, which in turn helps them gain the academic and social skills needed to succeed in life.
Here are some tips to make attendance a priority this month and the rest of the year!
Don’t forget to communicate about attendance.
Communication is the first step to building a good relationship between parents and schools/daycares. When parents and childcare workers/educators work together it is easier to advocate for and help students succeed. Childwatch is a great tool for communicating and allows adults to message each other regarding any concerns or obstacles they may be facing in regards to attendance. Communication about attendance is a great way to make sure that everyone stays on track and that no one gets left behind.
Keep track of attendance.
As important as attendance is, keeping up good attendance is a challenge. Going to school or work when you could stay in bed all day or go on a relaxing getaway can be difficult. It can be very tempting to call out for the day, and while there are times you should call out (sick days, mental health days, important family events, etc.), it is important to make sure that you are keeping track of your absences. Make sure you know your school/daycare attendance policies and stay on track for a good attendance record. Childwatch also has features that can help you keep track of your child’s attendance.
Prepare for success.
If your child is reluctant to go to school in the mornings, getting ready the night before can be a lifesaver. Take a few minutes to prep outfits, backpacks, and lunches the evening before going to school. Then, when you wake up in the morning all you have to do is focus on getting out of the house instead of mediating squabbles about which t-shirt is clean enough to wear and trying to find runaway school supplies.
Take care of your health.
Going back to school introduces a lot of new germs to students and their families. Getting sick is almost unavoidable in the fall/winter and your child will likely catch a cold or few, especially at the beginning of the year. Be sure to follow school and daycare rules regarding illness, and keep children home so they don’t make others sick. However, there are also ways to build up immunity and protect your kid’s health. Make sure your kids are ingesting all of their essential vitamins and practicing good hygiene. Remind your kids to wash their hands before they eat, keep their hands out of the mouth, nose, and eyes, and wash up once they get home to keep those germs out of the house.
Listen to your children.
If you have a child who is really struggling with the transition back to school, you’ll still want to focus on good attendance, but it will require a little more care. Kids who are reluctant to go to school usually have a lot of anxiety or fear that they are struggling to manage. Sitting down and discussing their feelings is a good way to acknowledge what they are feeling and come up with a plan that supports them as they slowly become more comfortable with being back in the classroom. However, listening is key, don’t make assumptions about why they may be upset, rather listen and problem-solve with them to make sure they feel safe.
Going back to school is exciting and challenging at the same time. However, attendance is important and should be a top priority in the first few weeks when it may be hardest to go. The habits you develop in your early years play a big role in how children develop and the habits they’ll practice as adults. Starting the school year off on the right foot will help build expectations for attendance and help your child learn the importance of showing up when they need to, even if they don’t always feel like it.