Setting Children Up for Success at School

Relationships are uniquely crucial for human development. It is attachment that has always tethered us together, and for that reason it’s our greatest need. For these reasons, parents should start creating relationship standards and goals so that children can relax and be themselves. When we meet the attachment and dependency needs of our kids, they’re able to emerge as viable, separate beings. How?

• It’s important children feel safe at home to experience all their big feelings. When home is an easy place to express their feelings, kids are better able to navigate mistakes, failures and disappointments—for example, not getting the red crayon or not getting to play with a friend at recess.

• Always encourage play so kids may naturally work through worries and stresses while expressing and discharging big feelings. Settling back into the routine of school coupled with the end of summer is a big transition for kids (and parents). Nevertheless, make space for all the feelings—excitement, anxiety, worry, frustration. Keep your after-school activities simple. Hopefully now you’re ready for new routines and have come to terms with saying goodbye to your summer selves. Prioritize time for rest and play.

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• Ensure proper sleep. Sleep is restorative. If you must wake your child in the morning, they aren’t getting enough sleep.

• Eat well. Healthy diets can help prevent “hangry” kids.

• Establish routines. Routines can help kids feel connected because they know how the day will unfold.

• Take charge of health, safety, boundaries, and support good decision making. Set limits accordingly so that children can rest easy knowing they’re taken care of.

• Understand that upset is normal and take responsibility for preserving your relationship with your child.

• Lead with empathy, delight in your child, allow them to exist in your presence and don’t take things personally.

Parents will likely have a range of feelings about “Will my child behave in school?” And “What can we do to set them up for success?”

Gordon Neufeld, who is a psychologist and author, says these six trait can’t be taught and must be grown.

1. Children should want to be good for the people they are attached to and resist orders from those they are not.

2. Children are easy to alarm. A healthy alarm system moves a child to caution and makes them conscientious and concerned about their actions.

3. Children feel futility. They can adapt to not getting their way, accept another’s decision and adjust to the limits and restrictions in their life.

4. Children are appropriately attached to adults. These adults are role models and share similar values.

5. Children are well intentioned. They can of course form their own goals and agendas as well.

6. Children are not only well tempered, but they also have self-control. They can think twice! (This occurs as a result of prefrontal brain integration, which doesn’t happen until ages 5 to 7 years old.)

Kids are teachable because they have a fulfilling relationship with someone. Parents can also help attach their child to the teacher who will be their compass. We can play matchmaker!

“When kids see that their parents like their school, in addition to their teacher, it can go a long way to helping them trust their adults at school, says clinical counsellor and author Dr. Deborah MacNamara.

“Parents need to take an active role in the first place and play matchmaker with the teacher by speaking with warmth about the teacher, conveying trust in them, orienting them to the school culture and rules and ensuring that the relationship with their teacher stays on track,” adds MacNamara. “Kids do their best as a result of adults taking the lead in introducing them to the people that will later take care of them. It provides both security and a sense of peace so that the focus is on learning.”

Create and seize opportunities to matchmake your child to their teacher and their wider school community.

Get to know your school community

Find your school Parent Advisory Council (PAC) social media page or other platforms to connect and inform families.

Attend school events.

Join the PAC! Everyone can find a meaningful way to contribute. Volunteering is a great way to meet other parents, contribute to school culture and offer hands-on help.

Cultivating even one or two important connections will go a long way.

Vancouver Island's Parenting Resource