Open communication helps back-to-school planning

AMES -- As Fairfield Community School District children prepare to head back to school on Sept. 4, parents are getting ready as well. Buying school supplies, registering their children for activities and arranging for transportation are among the activities on many parents? to-do list.

However, another necessary item for back-to-school planning is open communication, which will ease everyone?s first-day nerves, says Barbara Dunn Swanson, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

?All children will not react the same way to the beginning of the new school year. Set aside some time to talk with your child about the upcoming year,? said Dunn Swanson, who specializes in family life issues.

Parents can ask children what excites them about the beginning of the new school year, and what they may be curious or worried about.

?If your child is anxious about school, acknowledge those feelings. Remind your child that you are always available to talk through any situations that may be worrisome. The time you spend communicating will help to alleviate fears that both of you may be feeling,? Dunn Swanson said.

Dunn Swanson offers these additional suggestions:

? Remind your children that you care for them and are proud of the many new things they are learning and accomplishing.

? Try to find some alone time with each child to explore the day?s happenings and how he or she is adjusting to school.

? Family mealtime offers another opportunity to explore the school day.

? Talk about your expectations, but offer support and guidance. Let your child know that you are open to solving problems together.

? An older sibling also may provide support and information about school transition.

? Establish a good relationship with your child?s teacher. When you have concerns, check-in with your child?s teacher to get a wider perspective.

A new school year brings opportunities to participate in many activities. Be aware that over-scheduling can increase stress for children and parents, Dunn Swanson cautioned.

?As a family, make some decisions about afterschool activities that are meaningful to your children and that make good sense with the time available. Balance time for homework, afterschool activities, family mealtime and social time,? she said.

?When you communicate and plan together, the new school year can be a year of success,? she continued.

For more information, visit Science of Parenting at to explore more connections between school and home. The Dare to Excel newsletter series at helps parents focus on creating a home environment that promotes learning through developing routines, setting limits, communicating, encouraging healthy routines, positive use of technology and involvement in school activities.