The transition back to school can be challenging for both children and parents. Even those excited about the return of the school year face adjustments to the pressures and structure brought by a new year. Here are tips to help get back into the groove for the first days of school.
Use the last weeks of summer to ease children back into a sleep schedule. Every few days, have children go to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier. This subtle change will be easier than suddenly making bedtime an hour earlier. Begin setting the alarm clock and going through the morning rituals. Include where backpacks, important notices and lunches should be placed. The predictability of routines helps children feel secure.
Get supplies and fill backpacks a week before school begins. Allow children to choose a few items outside the supply list such as a notebook with their favorite character. Designate a homework spot and organize it to encourage focus. Have your child help arrange it so that it is structured based on his or her specific organization style. (Older children may prefer that it be in their bedroom. Younger children benefit from an area that is conducive to adult monitoring and encouragement). Pack lunch the night before. Preparing and freezing meals ahead of time can relieve some stress of the first week of school.
Some teachers welcome emails or classroom visits. Meeting the teacher and locating the classroom (lunchroom, locker, etc.) can help ease anxiety. If this is not possible, look on the school’s website to see
if the teacher’s picture is there for your child to see. Try to access a school map online to take a virtual tour. If a welcome letter from the teacher or school is sent, read it together as a family.
Write a book and make your child the lead character. Use the book to teach strategies to cope with anxiety. If your child is nervous about making friends, in the story have your child go up to other students and say, “Hi, I am ____. What is your name?” or “My name is ____. Can I play with you? Do you want to share my toys?” Help kids read facial expressions. Encourage your child to illustrate the book or to name characters to help them feel more connected to the story. In the story, the situation should be resolved. Read the book often to raise confidence and competence.
Connect To Home
Send young children to school with transitional objects. This can be any meaningful item that represents home (a blanket/stuffed animal/toy). Leave pictures of family in their backpack to look at when sad. For older children, leave a note in their lunchbox with a lipstick kiss or a note of encouragement and love.
Children respond to your energy. Model anxiety management strategies so that they understand that it is okay to be nervous but that there are ways to calm oneself. Reinforce their ability to cope by discussing other times they have been nervous and how they have successfully dealt with it. Point out positive parts of a new year such as seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Demonstrate enthusiasm about school and your child’s abilities.
Graziella Simonetti is a Parent Educator for EAC Network’s Long Island Parenting Institute and works as an Early Childhood Social Worker for the New York City Department of Education.
She holds an advanced certificate in parent education from Adelphi University and is a NYSPEP Credentialed Parenting Educator. Simonetti is a former kindergarten teacher. Learn more at www.eacinc.org/long-island-parenting-institute.