Back to School: What are the Keys to Social Success?
As kids head back to school, it’s important parents help prepare their children emotionally in addition to purchasing new school supplies. One local speech therapist outlines her best tips for adapting to a new year and achieving social success
Contributor: Michelle Frankenthaler, MCD, CCC-SLP, Senior Speech Therapist at The Bancroft School
Back to school season is in full swing! And besides the flurry of sales and shopping, families should consider preparing their kids for the social and peer adjustments a new school year can bring. As a parent, what can you do to make the transition to a new school, new class and new friends as rewarding and smooth as possible? What if your child has special needs?
As a Senior Speech Therapist at The Bancroft School in Haddonfield, I’ve supported families as they make the transition from summer to school year. Fortunately, I’ve seen firsthand the difference a few low stress, fun and engaging strategies can make. In fact, you might already be incorporating many of them into your routine!
First, remember summer is fun, keep it that way. When your child sees you with a positive attitude about the upcoming school year, he or she will also get excited. Build on existing social skills and maintain friends from previous years, if possible. Also, help develop new interests and discover new friends before that first day. Check out a few additional tips below to keep the transition easy and fun!
If your child has particular interests, whether sports, arts, or even video games, use them connect with future classmates. Identify other children from the same school who share your child’s interests, and sign them up for programs or clubs together.
There are many great books for all ages and skill levels that address a new school year and meeting new friends. Help your child select one of these books and read together and discuss the topics addressed. Talk honestly, validate any stressful feelings, but also provide comfort and support.
Take advantage of summer fun and create opportunities to model strong social skills with your child. Play games and engage in activities as a family. You are your child’s number one teacher and role model. During games, teach children appropriate turn-taking skills, communication skills and problem solving. Model being a good winner and a good loser, while having fun.
Connect with Other Parents
Many school districts share the class list well in advance. Utilize it to arrange playdates with classmates. Have a variety of fun, simple activities to encourage kids to truly interact and get to know each other. Most children with special needs will benefit from structured activities and limited over-stimulating activities.
Remember to keep it fun and follow your child’s lead and interests. Model a positive outlook and keep interactive activities low stress and engaging. This will make the summer fun and serve as smart preparation for the upcoming school year. Now, go savor these last weeks of the season and enjoy a smooth transition.