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Parents hold the key to back to school success

First day of school anxiety will be felt by students in the North Kitsap School District as much as it is anywhere in United States, as scores of schools around the country get underway following the Labor Day holiday.

And though teachers, principals and counselors will be ready to help students make the transition into the year smoothly, nerves can put to ease before the three-day weekend, by those most familiar to the students — their moms and dads.

“Parents are the first and most important teachers,” said Marylou Murphy, executive director of Teaching and Learning in the North Kitsap School District. “(They) can best prepare their kids for school by providing a loving, supportive environment that provides lots of opportunities to learn and grow.”

Approximately 6,500 preschool to high school students will return to North Kitsap’s classrooms Wednesday and there’s plenty that parents can do to prepare their sons and daughters for the experience.

Communication is perhaps the most vital aspect of sending their offspring to a new grade. Simply by keeping an open ear, parents can make a difference in their children’s lives, no matter if they’re entering kindergarten or their last year of high school.

“One of the most important things that a parent can do for their child to get ready for school is to spend time listening to their child’s concerns about going back to school,” said Shirley Parrot, the instructional support teacher at Vinland Elementary. “Parents don’t need to come up with the perfect ‘answer,’ they just need to listen.”

Keeping an upbeat attitude is also important, Parrot added.

“A positive attitude can make all the difference in the world,” Parrot said. “Be excited with them — model an adventurous spirit and attitude. If you are worried, they’ll pick up on it.”

In the same way, reflecting on the negatives of the “first day” experience can be counterintuitive, Murphy said.

“Talk through any fears the child may have ... but don’t dwell on fears,” she said. “Do not talk about your less-than-positive school experiences.”

Many families might have also adjusted to the “summer” schedule where bedtimes become more lax and eating times are varied. It’s important to take steps now — about a week before school — to get them on the “school night” schedule.

“We all know that we, as adults, don’t cope with stress as effectively if we’re tired and this goes for children also,” Parrot said.

Murphy suggests a variety of foods to help students get back on track, including fruits, vegetables and those that have lots of calcium and protein.

Preparation also can make all the difference in the world. Parrot suggests getting school supplies as soon as possible and making a visit to school before the first day. “Back-to-school night” is ideal to help shake off anxiety.

“Knowing where you are going and what your teacher looks like has a very calming affect on everyone,” Parrot said.

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