Back to school tips

| Convent of the Visitation School | August 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

Each fall, Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights welcomes students from pre-K through 12th grade, so its teachers understand how to help children of every age. That’s why we’ve asked four Visitation leaders for age-appropriate tips that can help you and your family get back to school smoothly and successfully.

For young children

Anne Cherrier coordinates Visitation’s child care program, which serves infants starting at 6 weeks of age, toddlers and preschoolers. Here’s her advice:

  • Get to bed early. The first few weeks of a transition will tire out any child – or parent! Make it a priority to wind down together with quiet stories, prayers and a prompt bedtime.
  • Keep smiling. Sadness is to be expected when you separate from your young child, but you don’t want to worry your tot. Keep smiling at drop off, then cry a little (or a lot) in the car if you need to.

Grade school growth

Michelle Mechtel directs Visitation’s Lower School, which serves students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Her tips are:

  • Prepare for the transition. Before school starts, share positive memories from your grade-school days, and take advantage of any school open houses or meet-the-teachers events.
  • Help your child gain a sense of control. Encourage your student to pack his or her backpack with completed homework, lay out tomorrow’s clothes, or even prepare a simple sack lunch.
  • Avoid over-scheduling. Your student will need down time to process all the newness of school, so don’t plan too many after-school activities, especially during the first months.

The middle school years

Vis’ Middle School for grades 6-8 is overseen by Ben Tierney, who suggests:

  • Stress that learning is an individual process. If your children feel they are “not good” at a subject, the word “yet” is your best friend. Explain that if we aren’t challenged by things, we aren’t learning. Being “good” at something is not rigidly set according to who we are, but rather something that develops over time through challenge, perseverance and eventual success.
  • Counter negative messages. In a world of unattainable images, tweens and teens are bombarded with messages that make them feel they don’t measure up. Highlight their specific passions and what you admire about them. And always remind your child that they are made in God’s image; they “measured up” from their first day of life.
  • Let go, yet stay involved. It’s important for parents to acknowledge and support middle school students’ growing independence, yet remain connected to the school, perhaps through volunteering.

High school’s broadening horizons

Rene Gavic directs Visitation’s all-girls Upper School for grades 9-12. She says:

  • Remind your children that their value is in who they are, not in how they perform. We all must learn to navigate disappointments and frustrations. Don’t jump in too soon to save your students from struggles. Instead, let them learn the satisfaction of solving problems on their own.
  • Encourage new adventures. High school is a time of preparation, but it is also a time of exploration. Encourage your students to get involved in a new sport, school activity or community service.

For all students

  • Implement consistent routines. Consistency provides a sense of comfort at any age because it evokes feelings of safety and security. Consider a simple phrase or action as a way to transition into school at drop-off or when the bus arrives. And, of course, try to make sure everyone in the family gets enough sleep!
  • Provide clear expectations. Discuss your school’s code of conduct and communicate your personal expectations for acceptable and unacceptable performance, both socially and academically.
  • Communicate often. Ask open-ended questions about how your child is feeling, rather than questions that can be answered with a yes or no.
  • Ask for help sooner rather than later. If you sense your child is experiencing difficulty, reach out for help before the problem escalates by talking to a teacher, counselor, school nurse or health care provider.
  • Pray for each other. “At Vis, we know that when the kids get up for school, the Sisters are already praying for them to do their best,” Gavic said. “We, in turn, encourage parents to pray with their students for their teachers and classmates to be their best, too.”
  • Remember, you are the expert when it comes to your child. You have what amounts to a PhD in your child. If you sense something is off, listen to your gut, even if others dismiss your concern. You are your child’s best advocate.
The mission of Visitation School in Mendota Heights is to provide an excellent education in a Catholic environment permeated with Salesian spirituality. Visitation offers an infant to preschool Early Learning Center, a co-ed preschool — grade 6 curriculum, and an all-girls college preparatory school for young women in grades 7-12. To learn more, visit



Category: Back to School