Building and Fostering Relationships in the Upcoming School Year
By Stephanie Bowersox and Emily Simmons Back to school is right around the corner, and there are many challenges that a student may face during this season. One of the most common struggles is getting students reacclimated to a school environment and helping them form or reform relationships after having a long break over the summer. Here are some ideas, tips, and resources for educators and parents to help their child build and foster new relationships this upcoming school year.
Tips for Educators
Three things that are key to reacclimating a student to the classroom after the summer are being firm, fair, and consistent. Students need boundaries and limits, and they need to know that their educators are going to be consistent in enforcing those boundaries. One thing that helps with this is maintaining a regular routine and having lots of structure in the classroom so students know what to expect. It is also important to remember that students need to be loved and nurtured, and that being firm, fair, and consistent must be balanced with being loving and nurturing as well. A practical way to do this is to have a firm teacher paired with a loving and nurturing mental health associate in the classroom.
While these strategies prove useful, the heart of everything is relationships. Building relationships with our students and helping them to build relationships with one another is one of the most important things that we do. Here are some practical tips on how to do that:
- Ask the students’ what their interests are and continue to have conversations with them about those interests.
- Ask about how their summer was and talk about their break.
- Play ice breaker games to help them be more comfortable around each other.
- Touch base with them and check in on how they’re doing on a regular basis.
Because many of our students have special needs, being social and making new friends does not always come easy to them. To help our students learn important social skills, our therapists work in groups with them and discuss different topics, such as how to take turns or how to lose gracefully when playing games. Our classroom staff implement lots of activities that involve using social skills, and over time, the students create relationships.
We have seen these strategies have a positive impact on our students. At one time, we had a student who was having a really hard time building any relationships with anyone in the school. To try to help this student, we worked heavily with her in the classroom and tried to consistently invest in her. As our staff got to know her and learned her different social cues, we were able to see her build some relationships with those around her.
Tips and Resources for Parents
Relationship fostering does not just end when the bell rings. The best things that parents can do to help their child prepare for back to school is to maintain a strong connection with the school so we can all work together. It needs to be a partnership between the school and the parents for the best interest of the student. Some other helpful tips to prepare students for back to school are listed below:
- Set boundaries and limits at home – use things like sticker charts for reinforcement.
- Limit your child’s time on technology or social media so they do not feel the need to be on it all the time at school.
- Be consistent with discipline. Set clear expectations, follow through, and stay firm.
- One or two weeks before school starts, ease the child into "the back to school" bedtime routine.
- Talk to your child about goals for a new school year (make new friends, improve reading skills, etc.)
- At our school, we always provide school supplies so parents don't have that financial burden, but kids love shopping for school supplies so letting them pick out a few of their favorites is always a good way to get excited about coming back to school.
Additionally, here are some additional resources to help you and your child prepare for this upcoming back-to-school season.
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