Making the Transition 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.