The Back-To-School Transition: Setting Your Family Up For Success!

Here we go again! It’s back to school for the kiddos. And while there is much to look forward to with a new school year, many kids (and parents) have a difficult time getting back into the swing of things. Transitions can be especially difficult for children. Think of all the ways they are affected by this transition back to school: bedtime, wake time, limited time to eat breakfast, dress, and transport to school, increased structure of all daily activities, starting sports and clubs again, new school, new grade, new teacher, new peers. Whew. They are even exposed to your own parental angst about these changes.

 Kids can be apprehensive, even anxious, about going back to school. Things like meeting new peers, going to a new grade or new school can be scary due to fear of the unknown and lack of familiarity. Maybe some specific situation occurred last year that a child fears repeating, like being bullied, falling behind academically, or being embarrassed in class. It’s important to recognize and hear a child’s concerns about returning to school. However, a parent can challenge their concerns by reminding them of their strengths and resiliency in surviving previous school years.  In addition, redirect them to focus on the positives; help them see this transition as an opportunity not an obstacle.

Here are some ideas for decreasing back-to-school jitters (for parents too), and increasing adjustment to the new school year:

1. Go to your school’s open house. Check your calendar. It could be this week! If you’ve missed it, see if you can drop by the school anyway with your child and meet his teacher. This is an important step in familiarizing with the teachers, classroom, and school grounds - even where the bathroom is! It also gives your child a chance to get a head start on meeting other classmates who may be there, and for you to meet parents of classmates. Mom and Dad, do yourself a favor and go ahead and get some contact information from the other parents as well. You may find yourself needing help with ideas for spirit week or clarification on Billy’s field trip agenda.

2. Get a head start on your routine, including bedtime and wake time, long before school starts. As much as your child wants to get in as many late night sleepovers as possible before school starts, it will make adjusting to school nights and days much more difficult. Include your bedtime rituals (i.e. reading a book before lights out). If you don’t have one of these rituals, start one. As it’s included into the bedtime routine, your child develops a connotation that it’s time to wind down.

3. Involve your child. Provide choice to your child, within reason. For example, if it’s in your budget to buy a new lunch box this year, let her pick it out from a few choices within your budget. This can serve your child by empowering them, giving them some control in an uncontrollable transition back to school, as well as excite them about school, and provide a form of self-expression. Who knows? Your child’s Ninja Turtle lunch box could be a conversation starter with a classmate who also shares an affinity for the crime-fighting reptiles! Making friends made easy (or easier at least).

See Psychology Today Blogs for more information:

‘It's Time to Fall Back Into the School Schedule: Implement a Plan to Reset Children and Adolescents’ Sleep Patterns’ –Joseph Buckhalt, Ph.D.

‘Back-to-School Worries: Recognize common worries kids have about returning to school’- Barbara Markway, Ph.D.