With praise, understanding, and some structure you can smooth out back-to-school jitters
Lianna Wilson, MA, and Sarah Straus, MS
As the summer comes to a close and school is getting back into session, here are a couple quick reminders to help make the transition from the beach to the classroom easier for you and your child.
Validation: Let your child know that his nervous or apprehensive feelings about the start of school are normal. All kids (and adults!) have a hard time getting back into the routine of the school year. The knowledge that he is not alone in this experience will help your child feel he’s being heard and understood.
Morning Routines: A common change that occurs as we begin the school year is a new morning routine. To help your child be successful, discuss what her morning routine will look like during the school year. This way, your child knows what will be happening and has clear expectations that are valuable to her under the time pressure of getting ready for school. Provide your child with simple, well-defined, and easy steps for her routine so that she has a clear idea of what you expect and so that it’s easy to follow along with you! Having an easy-to-reference schedule, maybe with pictures, can engage your child and provide a wonderful visual guide for what she needs to do next. Giving specific praise when she completes each lets her know that you love what you’re seeing. This will increase your child’s chances of success in the future and helps build her self-esteem.
Homework: Another transition that can be rough after a summer break is homework completion. Like the morning routine, providing your child with a structured schedule can help him stay focused and motivated. Completing homework as soon as school is over and with continuous parental support will take advantage of the daylight hours and provide encouragement, motivation, and assistance when needed. Snacks are a great way to keep your child’s energy up while he works through those tough math problems. Of course, some children have active schedules, with team sports, music classes, or after school clubs, which can make engaging in homework more difficult. Letting your child know that you understand the hard work he is putting in and being ready with frequent positive feedback for his effort can help motivate him to get homework done.
Bedtime: Bedtime is one of the hardest transitions. Children may be accustomed to going to sleep later and/or waking up later during the summer, so the new school schedule can be difficult to get acclimated to. As with the morning routine, having a nighttime schedule can assist in creating a structure for your child. Set your child up for success with clear expectations, simple step-by-step instructions, and praise at the completion of each step. Additionally, visual reminders can help your child have something to refer to as she goes about her routine. Most kids want more time watching their favorite TV show or finishing that last level of a videogame, and setting time limits can be a great way to put a boundary around the winding downtime that they need each evening.
And if you find that these transitions are harder than expected or find yourself needing any additional help or support, our doors at the Child Mind Institute are always open!