Transitioning back to school may seem like a simple task but for many children, it is fraught with anxiety and difficulty. This affects not only the youngest of children in the primary grades but also college-bound students leaving home for the first time.
The transition period in August or early September can be challenging for both students and parents. The switch from less structured summer days to more refined ones can take its toll emotionally and sometimes physically. Every child is different and the manner in which they cope and adjust can vary. Being mindful of this transition and taking proactive steps to ensure your child’s well-being can be immeasurable.
Below are some strategies that can be helpful to your child prior to the start of school.
-In mid-August, parents should be thinking about re-establishing bedtime and nighttime routines. It is likely that many children have had later bedtime and waking hours during the summer. Re-establishing the expected times for going to bed and waking up should begin here. This is also an important period where children should begin the process of curbing their cell phone or video game use. Waiting too late on this will cause unnecessary friction and conflict around bedtime and homework once the school year commences.
-If your child is very young or transitioning to a new school, you should call the main office and schedule a visit prior to school starting. The exposure to an unfamiliar place will help immensely in reducing irrational fears or expectations for your child. These types of visits are done all the time and are often expected and welcomed.
-Have a discussion with your child on the expectations of homework. This includes when and where the child will sit down and do their work. These expectations should be clear at the outset. Do not assume your child knows your expectations on this matter. Be clear and direct.
-Have a discussion about hygiene routines prior to the start of school. Some children prefer showering before bed and others in the morning. Being on the same page will eliminate frustrating arguments and make morning routines run more smoothly.
-Be sure as parents you have organized all the essential commitments on your calendar. This includes scheduled doctors’ appointments, school events, sports, etc. Many families have children in more than one school which can be a challenge logistically. More organization creates less stress for parents and students.
-If your child has sensory issues, be sure he/she can carry their sensory item to school. These objects can provide relief from sensory overload and anxiety (especially in the beginning days of school).
-Be patient thru the process. Most children prefer summer over school so you may encounter some resistance and crabbiness at the outset. Re-establishing a routine is good for them but also be flexible when needed.
-Finally, at all points, give them recognition for a job well done when they are applying the routines and rules established. This will reinforce positive behavior and the likelihood of continued success.
Patrick W. Sweeney, M.Ed., CAGS, LMHC
Behavioral Health ConsultantWestwood-Mansfield Pediatric Associates
“Proactive in your child’s care. Empowering families for over 65 years.”