There are three words that send chills down a child’s spine during the summer months; these words are “Back to school”. Students are often nervous about the new school year because of separation anxiety and fear of the unknown. Even if they are not letting on, parents and guardians will often start to see erratic or unusual behavior from their children as the summer comes to an end. I know that my own kids get very anxious mid-August and they stay that way until they have fully adjusted to their new school year.
With careful planning, empathy, and understanding, parents can help students adjust more easily. Not only will a smoother adjustment help with your child’s school success, but it will also help to ensure a peaceful household. Together, you and your child can work to reduce or even alleviate back to school nervousness.
Planning In Advance for a Smooth Transition
Firstly, if your family is lucky enough to enjoy a summer vacation, make sure to return from the vacation as early as possible. A good guideline is to return at least one week in advance of the new school year. Under no circumstances should you schedule a vacation that overlaps the school year. Emergencies happen, but if it can be avoided, return as early as possible. Returning early will allow for some transition time that will enable you to setup a routine that will help your kids adjust.
Also, over the summer, bedtimes can often become lax, and children are allowed to sleep in. Develop or return to your sleeping routine the week prior to the beginning of the school year. The transition will be difficult, but the time will be well worth it. As part of this transition back to bedtime routines, start limiting television times and replace it with reading time. Reading with your kids, removing the distraction of television, and getting to bed on time will ensure that the first day of school doesn’t surprise or shock your child.
Finally, make sure to schedule any medical appointments in the week or two before school begins. The last thing your child needs is to be pulled out of school before they have fully adjusted to their new routine. In reality, appointments should never be made during the school day, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Make sure to let your child have a full month or so to adjust to their new school schedule, teachers, and environment before you remove them from school during their school day.
Helping Hour Child With The School Day Transition
Even if your child is in grade school, there is a very real possibility that they will have a schedule and transition between teachers during the day. You and your child should meet with your child’s entire teaching team so that he or she will recognize the names and faces of the teaching staff it there are school day transitions. Also, contact district transportation if your child is riding a bus and get a bus map. Rehearse with your child the bus times and schedule, and even drive the bus route with your kid. Have empathy; during your day, you probably do not like surprises and unknowns – your child is no different.
Secondly, if your child is particularly nervous, visit his or her prior teacher. Together, you and the previous teacher can help to emotionally and physically transition your child to the new school year. For younger students, leaving an old classroom can cause a feeling of loss; it is important not to dismiss these feelings. Instead, you should capitalize on a positive relationship from the prior year and use it to encourage success in the new year. Together, you and the previous teacher can create a strong foundation for a new relationship with the new teacher.
Lastly, if possible, you should purchase new clothes and school supplies for the new year. Have your child choose as many of the new items as possible. This will create excitement about the new year, and it will help your child feel ownership in the new schedule and routine. Do not underestimate the excitement that a new outfit or backpack can generate in the life of your child.
First Day of School – Getting Through the Big Day
Begin the night before by setting out your clothes, backpacks, and packing lunches. Do it as a family; if the entire family seems excited, then your child will be too. The last thing your student needs is to be rushed in the morning or feel unprepared. The more you do the night before to prepare the better. If your family wakes to find all of the logistics in place, then you can focus on ensuring your child is emotionally prepared for his or her first day of school.
Next, either take the day off or make arrangements to have a shortened day. Your child really needs you their in the morning to drop them off. If this is not possible, then have a trusted family friend or your child’s friend take them. A “back to school” party in the morning is never a bad choice. Even if you can be there for your child, it is still a good idea to get a few friends together and walk into school at the same time in the morning. If you can build in “knowns” into your child’s first day of school then he or she will transition much more easily.
Stay as long as you need to. If your child is crying or upset, it is not a bad idea to stay around, out of sight of course, and ensure that your child stops crying. Knowing your child is safe both physically and emotionally will help you stay focused on your priorities throughout the day. Remember, your child is not the only one going through a major transition; you might be dealing with anxiety as well.
Lastly, be sure to debrief and prepare for the next day once your child has returned home. Everyone should have a place to store their school and work materials and an opportunity to plan for the next day. Make sure to talk to your child about any bumps he or she might have experienced throughout the day and prepare an action plan for the next day to overcome them. Work together as the school day develops to make sure that ever day continues to get better than the last.