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Three steps to psychologically prepare kids for school

Kids need more than a backpack and new clothes to have a good year in school. Here are the three things you can do to psychologically prepare your children to have a successful academic year.

  1. Create realistic expectations. Don’t mislead your kids into thinking that learning is always enjoyable. Don’t ask your kids “did you have fun in school today?”  Instead, ask them about what they learned or how they dealt with some of the drama that is an intrinsic part of getting along with other people. Help them understand that teachers are not entertainers.  Their jobs are to help our children learn, which can be terribly exciting at times but also boring and tedious. Prepare your children to expect and accept both parts of the learning experience.
  2. Expect strong effort. While success in school is important, recognize that not every child has above average academic ability. However, you should expect your child to work hard and achieve at a level consistent with her talents. Kids who succeed in school have a high degree of self control. They learn the benefits of delayed gratification.  They are willing to postpone doing something that feels good now for the greater satisfaction of achieving something later. You can encourage your child’s self control by restricting television and computer usage during the week, and reviewing your student’s exams and homework. Let your child know that school performance is very important.Read to your young child every night. Once children acquire this skill, develop a family routine of a reading time for everyone, even if only for 10 to 15 minutes. Allow older kids to read the newspaper, magazines or whatever is of interest.
  3. Focus on your child’s development in all areas. Our children learn lots of important lessons in school other than how to solve math equations or write a book report. Psychologists call these other abilities “emotional intelligence,” and they involve key skills in communication, problem solving, self-control, and interpersonal relations.It’s really important to talk about this stuff with kids. Ask them about how about how they resolved a disagreement with a peer or teacher. Discuss how they responded to another student being ridiculed or someone making a racist remark. Help them acquire an emotional resiliency to deal with failure, persistence when confronted with tough situations, and a positive outlook towards life.We know that their success beyond school is due as much to their character as it is to their competence. Help them develop into young people who are honest, loving, and have a sense of gratitude for all they have been given.

Finally, recognize they while teachers are some of the most important people in the lives of our children, we remain the most important influence in determining how our kids turn out.


  1. Reply
    School Safety August 15, 2012

    Hi Doc,
    I was very encouraged by your three step program. The suggestions you made about discussing with them how they respond, resolve and feel about issues such as disagreements, being bullied, others being bullied, rediculed and dealing with their peers,  teachers and principal, are great.  Those suggestions not only help the child but also enhances the trust, understanding, repect and enjoyment of life with your child.    In some cases, a child may even get to a point of initiating those very conversations with a parent on their own.  Very few things in life provide the sence of trust, respect and love as when your child actively seeks your guidance and engages you in conversation of those same topics you promote above.
    I wish more parents would seek to expand their “EQ” and engage their kids so that they can experience the overwheling pride in their relationship with their kids.   Besides, you might just be surprised what you can learn from your kids and just how great they really are.  Besides, they are always learning from you! 

    • Reply
      Dr. Ramey August 21, 2012

      Great observations!  Engaging our children in conversations about such topics is the fun part of being a parent.

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