Making the Transition Back to School

Transitioning Back to School

It seems like all school year long kids can’t wait for summer break. And just as soon as the family really starts to enjoy it, it’s August and time to start making the transition back.

Aside from the disappointment of vacation coming to an end, the start of school can be a source of anxiety for many kids as they worry about the unpredictable – who will be in their class, who will they have for teachers, if the work will be too hard for them. And this is especially true for kids who may be moving to new schools with the transition from kindergarten to first grade, elementary to middle school, or middle to high school. But there are ways parents can help.

Here are some suggestions to help make the transition a little easier.

Keep Routine Constant

If you haven’t been keeping to a routine throughout the summer, consider starting in August. Routine is important for kids as it provides an anchor when other things may be in flux. So while there may be uncertainty about teachers and classmates, they will have the comfort of predictability at home. Sleep schedules often shift in summer to staying up late and sleeping in – start shifting back to a school day sleep schedule in August and keep the bedtime and wake up times consistent. Getting enough sleep is one of the most important ways to help you child navigate the next day. Keeping mealtimes as consistent as possible can help too, and is a good time to talk with your child about the day.

Talk With Them

If they’re starting to talk about school, engage them in conversation.  Ask them what their worries are, and develop a plan about how to deal with things that might come up, like what to do if they can’t find their classroom or locker. Talk about school in a positive way and focus on the good things. Consider reflecting on positives they didn’t expect during the previous school year as a way of setting the stage for the positive experiences they may have during the upcoming year.

Tour the School

Many schools offer times for kids to come with their parents to tour the school and meet the teachers. Make it a priority for your family. And if your child’s school doesn’t, consider asking.

A common fear for kids, particularly as they enter higher grades, is being able to find and open their locker, locate their classroom, and even find the restrooms. Doing a dry run can help. If they have their schedule already, you could even walk through the day going from class to class so they can become familiar with the location in the school. Younger kids can see their desk and explore their classroom so they know what it will be like before they start.

Meeting the teacher is also a great way to provide familiarity for their first day, so they know who they are and what to expect. It’s also helpful for kids to see other kids going through the same steps of finding their way in the school to assure them they’re not the only one checking things out.

Drive by the school a few times before the start of classes to get used to the building and neighborhood. For younger kids, consider playing on the school playground a few times for fun. Think about scheduling a playdate with a classmate at the playground or elsewhere, to keep the social part of school positive too.

Going to school before the year starts, talking about what to expect, and creating a sense of routine are all ways to provide kids with a source of comfort that can ease their minds and help them get their year off to a great start.

16 comments

  • As a family we start talking now with the kids about who the teacher will be and what they like about school or if they have any questions. We also take fun shopping trips to buy school shoes or items they get to pick out.

  • This week, my kids will be sorting school supplies at the Lussier Community Center. The school supplies are then given away to kids that need them. This annual volunteer activity starts their transition back to school.
    We have also shifted our bedtime back to the normal school routine now that it is August.
    Later this month, we’ll finish our back-to-school shopping, meet with their teachers, and schedule a few play dates for them to reconnect with some friends they haven’t seen for a while.

  • We practice getting up and getting ready on time, including a walk to the bus stop to “catch the bus”.

  • We start going to bed at an earlier time about a week before school begins. The kids get to choose their backpacks and lunch bags, as well as a few extra school supplies. We take a walk to their school so they know how far we will be walking in the morning. They also get to set out their clothes for a couple of days once we go shopping.

  • my oldest is only 1.5 so we haven’t developed a “back to school” routine yet 🙂

  • We do the usual school supply shopping, pick out a few new outfits, and closer to the start of school we cook a special dinner. We try to build as much excitement about the new school year as possible.

  • We always take the opportunity to attend the open house that the school offers. I feel it helps alot in transitioning to the new year with a new teacher.

  • I am going to start the mindfulness ideas I got from the UW website. We often circle up on my big bed at nighttime to go over our thorughts of the day, problem solve, or just snuggle. This will be a perfect time to start our back to school discussions and review our school routines as well.

  • We start talking about the school supplies they need/want, and shop together for them. We talk about how much they’ve grown since last year, and how to develop an attitude of success for everything from scheduling to study habits.

  • We buy returning girls a special locket so they can add photos of mom & dad to be with them as they go to school………..

  • I have two children to shop for. I take each of them school shopping on different days. This way we can make it enjoyable and talk about the upcoming school year ahead. Our school district has an open house coming up to tour the school and/or meet the new teachers and classrooms and drop off school supplies. It’s very exciting.

  • We start talking about their fears/concerns/excitement early around the beginning if August. We also start moving bedtimes closer and closer to regular school night times. Just about one week before, I start waking them a little earlier in the morning, to get them ready for those early start times.

  • This will be our first year with school! Will do our best to keeep up!

  • We have a middle schooler and high schooler. The biggest struggle is getting up in the morning, so we do the sleep routine suggested in the article and explain why. They understand it’s to help them that first week. We also discuss the exciting new aspects of the coming year. Each year there seems to be more privileges and special events (dances, class trips, drivers ed). Focusing on the positive makes the drawbacks seem minor.

  • We start getting back into our morning routine and we discuss the names of the teachers he works with on a daily basis, tour the school and walk to the rooms he most frequently visits and we also talk about how he handles himself if he is frustrated or mad (appropriate coping skills). All of these are essential for our son since he has very high anxiety.

  • We shop for school supplies together and attend the open house/school registration together. A few weeks before school starts we discuss fears/excitement about the new teacher. By mid-August we also start getting more strict with following our “school bedtime routine” and gradually move bedtime (and wake up time) earlier until it’s when we need it to be during the school year.