Expert Tips for a Better Start to the School Year

Thriving students have healthy habits, consistent routines and good communication


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Q: School seems to be more and more stressful, especially when children are starting a new year. What are some guidelines for back-to-school success for children and their parents?


A: Kicking off a school year brings excitement, anxiety and fear as your child transitions into a new grade, but there are simple steps you can take to ensure success. Doing well or failing in school starts at home. Studies link poor academic performance to factors such as lack of sleep, poor nutrition, obesity and poor parental support. Thriving students have healthy habits, consistent routines and good communication. Understand that your child cannot perform to his or her best ability if he or she does not feel good or prepared to start a new school year. Here are a few tips to set your student up for success:


  1. Make an appointment for a wellness checkup.  Is your child up-to-date on immunizations and exams? If he or she plans to play a sport during the school year, don’t forget the physical exam.
  2. Nudge your child into a sleep routine. Bump up bed time and wakeup time a few minutes each day to ensure your child will be rested and energized for the first day. Sleep is the secret weapon to school success.
  3. Encourage your child to stay in shape. Suggest a new activity such as playing soccer or joining the running club. Being active every day can lower obesity, decrease stress and help your child make friends.
  4. Show your excitement. Don’t wait until the last minute to fill out paperwork. Make buying school supplies a special activity to prepare and excite your child, not a last-minute chore that you obviously dislike.
  5. Organize your child’s binders, notebooks and designated homework spots. This small gesture allows kids to develop a routine, keeps them from losing supplies and provides consistency.
  6. Talk often with your child about how he or she feels. Give your child the chance to talk about anxieties, successes and disappointments each day. Create opportunities to discuss what’s going on in the classroom and with teachers and peers.
  7. Meet with your child’s teachers and stay in regular contact. Use phone or email communications to understand and address concerns and behaviors. This lets your child know you are interested — and watching.

When you are optimistic and excited about school, your child will be too. Expecting him or her to succeed is perhaps the most important way you can show support when beginning a new year. This does not mean demanding that your child get straight A’s, be the top varsity athlete or become the best tuba player. Just let your child know you expect his or her very best. This can help teach kids to be proud of what they can accomplish.

If expectations and routines are clear from the beginning, children have a greater chance of success in the classroom. That means optimal learning, mental stability, resilience and a terrific start to the school year.

Hannah Coble is a licensed clinical social worker at The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital with a background in behavioral health and outpatient therapy. Submit your questions to “Is My Kid OK?” by emailing


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