Ask Nicole: Preparing for a New School Year PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nicole M. Young   

I’ve been out of school for decades, but I still have a recurring dream where it’s the first day of school and I can’t find my locker. Everyone else is laughing, talking, and putting their books away, while I stand by feeling panicked. Eventually, I find my locker but can’t remember the combination to open the lock. At least I’m wearing pants in this dream.


I loved school in real life, but I remember starting every year feeling nervous and excited. Will I like my teacher? Will I have the same friends? Will the homework be too hard? I see my kids begin each school year with the same nervous energy. The nervousness always wears off after awhile, and they do just fine in school. I know it’s not that way for every child, though, which can make life feel like a recurring bad dream.


This monthly column provides tips for anyone who is raising children, based on the world-renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, available to families in Santa Cruz County. If you have a question or idea for a future column, please email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Dear Nicole,

Last year, my 7-year old son got into trouble almost every day for being disruptive and not following his teacher’s directions and classroom rules. It was stressful for everyone, and it became a battle to get my son to go to school. I’m teaching him to listen and follow rules at home, and it’s getting better. But I’m worried his new teacher has heard stories and already decided my son is a trouble-maker. What can I do to make this school year go better?

-       Hector


Dear Hector,

I’m glad you’ve reached out and asked for suggestions. Behavior problems at school can be stressful for children, parents, teachers, and administrators. The more that parents and teachers can work as a team, the more it benefits all children in the classroom. Here are some tips to try:


Identify the causes of the disruptive behaviors. Children “act out” at school for different reasons. Some children break rules because they are unclear or unrealistic. Other children become disruptive because they’re bored, tired, hungry, want to make their peers laugh, or find it’s an effective way to get the teacher’s attention. Disruptive behaviors can also be a sign of learning difficulties, mental health issues, or conflict with friends or family. Think back to last year to see if any of these issues might have contributed to your son’s behaviors. This can lead to ideas for preventing or handling similar situations this year.


Talk with your child about the new school year. Ask how he’s feeling about school, what he’s looking forward to, and what he’s wondering or worrying about. Then ask how he’d like this year to be different from last year. Talk about the importance of following rules at school – just like at home – so that everyone has a chance to learn. Help him set at least one goal for something to improve on this year, such as following his teacher’s directions, and have him identify steps he can take to meet that goal. Agree on a practical yet motivating reward he can earn for achieving his goal, such as a special activity with you, an extra 15-minutes of screen time, or a new book.


Establish a good relationship with the teacher. Request a meeting with your child’s teacher as soon as possible. Explain you’d like to work as a team to make the school year a positive experience for everyone. Briefly describe the previous year’s challenges, potential causes of the disruptive behaviors, and your son’s goals for the new year. Let the teacher know your son is working on listening and following directions, and share your approaches for encouraging positive behaviors and handling challenging behaviors that work well at home. Ask the teacher about the classroom rules and how disruptive behaviors are handled. Find out what you can do to support the teacher’s efforts to help your son learn and succeed in school. If you think your son has a learning disability or could use extra social-emotional support, ask about resources the school or district can offer.


FINAL THOUGHTS: Starting a new school year creates anxiety for many children and families, especially if school has been difficult in the past. Treat each year as a fresh start and build the communication and relationships that will help you, your child and your child’s teacher work as a team through both the fun and challenging times.

Nicole Young is the mother of two children, ages 13 and 17, who manages Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program, the world's leading positive parenting program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (Mental Health Services Act) and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit http://triplep.first5scc.org, www.facebook.com/triplepscc or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 August 2017 02:23
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