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Back to school advice from Enda O'Doherty of study skills ireland

Back to school advice.

Back to school

Routine is the key

Moving to a new house, funeral, going back to school, many people put them all in the same category as extremely stressful. Here at study skills Ireland we hope to make your transition back to school that little bit easier. If your child is going at the second level for the first time, I would recommend that perhaps you would read “the big jump “an article on If your child is heading into fifth year perhaps you should read the article also on our website on how to pick your Leaving cert subjects.

back to school advice

Routine .The number one word to keep in mind in back to school is finding routine. Find routine in terms of sleep ,study ,transport, food ,communication .When the summer Holidays arrive, gradually as a family we change sleep patterns, food patterns our schedule is completely thrown out the window. It’s flexible it’s Holidays, it’s fun. Many families find the return to the regimented schedule of school life very stressful .

The night before is always the best time to get organized .Breakfast materials out ,uniforms ready school bags packed, Pe gear ready .Any action that we can take the night before that will allow the morning to go smoothly is worth taking .Get your young person involved in getting organized the night before. Organization skills and self-management are important skills for young people to learn.

Photocopy the timetables of your children put them on the fridge as well as the school calendars .Perhaps you might integrate these onto a Google calendar that could be shared .By doing this you’ll know when sports days are ,parent teacher meetings ,staff training days, start and finish of holidays .This will avoid any last-minute heart attacks when you find out you’re supposed to be at the school for an event .

Bedtime. The weeks leading up to the return to school it might be a good idea to start introducing stepped back process of going to bed slightly earlier each night. Call the young person slightly earlier each morning so that when they do come back to the school schedule, they do not have the shock of waking up very early.

Breakfast. It’s important for concentration and memory that we fuel our young people’s bodies up so that their brains function at their best.

Reassurance .Many children naturally feel anxious returning to school are concerned about new classmates ,new teachers ,new experiences .It’s our role as parents to reassure them .What’s new and frightening within two days will be routine and normal .We need to remind them that life is about progression .There will always be new experiences .They will always feel this anxiety but they always will be resilient and get through .

Be the captain .Much like the captain of a ship on the stormy sea, you need to remain calm at all times .You might be stressed financially and emotionally by the return to school but it is important that your crew can look to you for reassurance .If you do feel anxious about your child returning to school it’s vitally important that you do not transfer your anxiety to them .

Punctuality .It can be very stressful for parents and students to negotiate traffic, trying to be in multiple locations all on time .Reduce stress from your life and your young person’s life by leaving the house 20 minutes earlier .Don’t attempt to arrive on time ,arrive early .It’s a great life skill that you can pass on to your young person .

Phones .The use of electronic gaming systems and phones during holiday time is of course different from school time .Establish clear rules as to when the devices can be used ,how long they can be used and explain that school ,family health are priorities ahead of the privilege of using technology .

Be aware .As the students settled back into school do take the time to look at their copies, their test results, their homework, journals .Be sure that you do this in a positive and constructive way you’re interested in their progress encourage them praise them .Be aware of significant events coming up. project submissions, trips ,examinations .Remind young person that you are on their team and really want them to succeed .There’s so much a parent can say and do to positively affect the outcome of their child’s success .This is dealt with in one of the videos on the “study smart series “on’s.

Goal setting .Set goals for your young person for the first term but be sure to set something that you know is achievable .Let them experience success and praise and use this momentum to slightly increase the goals and move them forward .

Praise .It would be very easy as you settle back into school to find multiple cases where a young person has broken the rules ,let the side down or failed .Insofar as possible make a real attempt to catch them doing the right thing and praise them .In my experience in education positivity and praise far more powerful motivators than fear and  criticism .

Team talk .If you have an adolescent and you’re planning your week schedule activities, transport ,food ,it’s important that you sit down with them and involve them in the scheduling process .They’re more likely to take ownership of this if they have been part of the planning process .

Lead by example .The saying goes monkey see monkey do .If you get stressed, don’t eat breakfast are anxious because you’re not organized, If you are negative and complain ,do not be surprised if your young person does the same .Being efficient and being organized is considerably less stressful in life .We should be demonstrating to our young people how to do it .

Why study ? In study skills Ireland study smart series one video is devoted to the topic why study .It is important that you clarify in young person’s mind why they’re getting up going to school for six hours a day and studying each night .I believe I can certainly teach anybody how to study how to be efficient, how to manage their time ,how to be organized ,how to get the maximum points in the leaving cert .My catch phrase has been good students work hard great students work smart .It is vitally important that your young person knows why they’re studying what is their final goal what is their life vision .

Mental health .The mental health of our young person is particularly important .Back to school needs to be managed by parents .We need to ensure they’re getting good quality  sleep, good nutrition, are  mixing with other young people and are taking part in exercise and sports .We need to ensure that they know they can speak to us but any issue or  problem that they are encountering .I often make it very clear to young people that their happiness should not be an accident but it should be something that they pursue every day .

Balance. Our natural inclination as parents is to get our young people involved in as many extracurricular activities as possible .It is vitally important that we don’t overstress them by having them constantly on the go by having a schedule that is filled to bursting point .

Study skills .So many times in school teachers will tell students to go and study a particular chapter is very important .We as parents will  insist that they go to the room and study hours on end .What has always struck me as strange is that why we’re very intent on telling them to study, we never tell them how . They must  learn study skills from an early age and adapt and change their style of study as they move through the education system .

Comparing children .As individuals we all have different talents ,abilities ,strengths and weaknesses We all learn at  different rates we all have our own journey through life .So too will our children .As parents we should never hold one child up in comparison. In working as a study skills coach with students and parents for over 30 years ,I tell all parents my first two goals are one is that my students are happy two that my students are healthy .In my experience the students who are motivated ,healthy and happy reach their maximum potential .Remember if you’re returning to secondary school that the leaving cert is not the finish line it simply start line and the number of points that you get does not define you as a person or your life journey .

If you get the routine of going back to school wrong don’t worry you’ll have several more attempts to improve on your efforts .As a parent be kind to you. Remember there is no golden rule book there is no master plan .

Enda O Doherty 00353866772154

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