(BPT) - They grow up fast, don't they? One minute they're in a car seat and the next you're picking out a school backpack. The transition to preschool and kindergarten is a big leap for most families and sometimes it can feel like a roller coaster ride. There are some obvious ways to prepare your kids for these changes: buying school supplies, getting them used to waking up on time, eating breakfast and possibly even taking a school bus ride. But there are some not-so-obvious preparations, too, like preparing yourself to take on a brand new role - as the parent of a school-aged child.
'As parents, it's so easy to focus on our kids and what they need that we forget to consider what we need,' says Donna Hunt O'Brien, an expert in early child development and Director of Training, Curriculum & Program Innovation at Parents as Teachers, an organization devoted to supporting families and young children. 'It's important to prepare yourself for your child's transition too. You are your child's first and best teacher and that role will expand as your child starts her journey through school. The more confident and prepared you are the more confident and successful your child will be.'
To help make your child's school year as successful as possible - and to help you enjoy the ride, as well - here are five things you can do to create a strong partnership between your family and your child's school:
* Open the lines of communication with your child's teachers and adult friends. You're not the only teacher in your child's life any more. Now she has other adults who are there to help. Introduce yourself, give out your contact information and make it clear you're happy these new teachers are a part of your child's world. After all, you both already have something in common -- you like watching your child learn new things. Establish a positive relationship with these other adults right away and you'll feel more comfortable coming to them when you need support.
* Involve your child's fan club. By the time your child is 3 or 4 years old, she will have many adults in her life who care about her, including grandparents, babysitters, and relatives. They are her loudest cheering section, so keep everyone in the loop about her triumphs and challenges as she enters that next grade level.
* Let teachers know what makes your family tick.What's the free time passion in your household? Do you read books together, play music, or do you love to spend time outdoors playing games? Share what your family likes to do with your child's school. This will give teachers an inside look at what your child loves and make it easier to find ways to capture her imagination.
* Share what makes your child special.If you're the parent of multiple kids, then you know better than anyone that every child is different - each has his or her own strengths and needs. As your child's first teacher and parent, you're the expert on everything to do with your kid. Take the time to listen to her thoughts and concerns and make sure you pass along this information to your child's school. It can help teachers know what to look for and how to lend a helping hand when your child needs it.
* Take the time to find your team. As parents, you're all on this roller coaster ride together, so don't be afraid to introduce yourself and share some stories with your fellow passengers. Learning that other parents have the same concerns or issues you do can make you feel better about your own situation.
These first school years are a big step, not only for your children, but for you as well. Make them amazing and don't forget to celebrate your child's victories. They grow up fast, so enjoy the ride together. For more tips and to find helpful programs, visit www.ParentsasTeachers.org.