Summer activities are winding down, the days are getting shorter, and fall clothes are back on the racks. For some children, this is an exciting time. A new school year is about to begin, and many are looking forward to seeing friends, meeting new people, and resuming enjoyable extracurricular activities. For other kids, this time can be anxiety provoking and stressful.
Regardless of how your child is feeling about the transition back to school, there are some things you can do to help.
Get Back on a Schedule
Summer days are often filled with late nights, lazy mornings, and unstructured time for kids. While this is a great way to recover from the stress of school, it can make the transition back to early mornings and structured time challenging.
It can be helpful to put kids back on their school schedule a week or two before school starts. For example, if bedtime was lenient during the summer, but is typically 9 p.m. during the school year, have them go to bed at 9 p.m. starting the week before. You may not need to get them up early, but they really shouldn’t be sleeping in past 8 a.m. or so during that last week of summer. Scaling back bedtime helps their body readjust to their school sleep schedule and makes that first early morning less challenging for everyone.
Bring Your Kids Back-to-School Shopping
As a parent, it can sometimes be easier to just run to the store and pick up your child’s school supplies in order to avoid the typical arguments over who sits in the front or wanting you to buy other things. However, bringing your child(ren) with you has some benefits.
For one, if kids are part of picking out the supplies, they are likely to pick things they really like. This will go a long way toward ensuring they use and care for their belongings during the year. It also helps them understand what types of supplies they need in order to be successful. Maybe they prefer one big binder for organization or maybe they want a folder for each class. Either way, these conversations during the shopping trip are helpful in preparing them for school and generating enthusiasm for academic endeavors.
A new year brings new excitement and new challenges. It can be helpful to sit down and talk with your kids about successes from last year and about your expectations for them during the upcoming school year. The conversation might include topics such as bedtime, morning routine, academic goals, behavioral expectations, and/or after-school scheduling.
Obviously, as the parent you will have the final say, but there are benefits to encouraging your child(ren) to be part of the conversation.
Instead of just laying out your expectations, it can be helpful to include your child in a discussion around these topics. This helps promote independence, decision-making skills, and problem-solving skills and increases buy-in. Obviously, as the parent you will have the final say, but there are benefits to encouraging your child(ren) to be part of the conversation.
Prepare for Changes
Whether your family just moved or your child is transitioning to a different school, do things to prepare for the changes. Ask your child if they want to take a tour of the new school or meet with the guidance counselor. This can go a long way toward reducing potential anxieties regarding the unknown.
While there is still some summer break left, it may also be helpful to have your child engage in activities that keep them engaged with peers they will see in school.
Talk with Your Child
Check in with your child about how they are feeling about the new school year. Don’t assume they are nervous, excited, happy, etc. Normalize and validate any feelings they might be having. Maybe they’re worried about the social aspects of school. Maybe they are concerned about balancing all their responsibilities. Regardless, having an open dialogue before school starts can open the door to creating solutions before there are problems and helps them to know you are a support.
Returning to school is a big change for children and families after a couple of months of summer fun. By utilizing some of the strategies outlined above, you can help ensure that your family has the best transition possible. However, even the best-laid plans can go awry. So, if your child is feeling particularly overwhelmed about the return to school and does not feel confident they can manage their feelings, connect with a therapist who can help them to develop skills to manage their feelings. And if the transition proves to be particularly rocky for you or your child(ren), seek support sooner rather than later to help get things on track.
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