Transitioning from Summer Back to School
“Bedtime, what bedtime? Our routines have gone out the window with vacation and activities. We have gotten so lazy this summer. My kids haven’t read a book all summer. I don’t even want to think about school starting.”
Do these comments sound familiar to you? We often find ourselves leaving behind the typical routines that we maintain during the school year when summer time arrives. With summer camps, activities, time with friends and family, vacations and differing work schedules for parents, the routines and dependence on time management skills to complete all the daily and weekly tasks tend to leave as we relax during the summer with our families. While it is good to have some down time, the start of school is only a few short weeks away which means thinking about routines and schedules once again.
As a parent you know your child best. Each child is individual and unique so understanding each child’s needs is important in knowing how to respond and prepare for an upcoming transition. For some children, a conversation now about school starting with a calendar to mark the days off is helpful. For other children, a conversation the weekend before the first day of school is enough notice.
Eight Tips For Mentally Preparing Your Kids For School
1. Good Sleep Habits—It is important to return to school time sleep times about a week before school starts. Have your child go to bed and rise at the times you will expect once school is in session. Returning to a regular sleep schedule isn’t automatic for a child’s body so working into the regular times is suggested. If you are wondering how much sleep your child may need here are the recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation.
• Recommend 10-11 hours for children ages 5-12
• Recommend 8.5-9.25 hours for teens
2. Develop Routines—Identify the morning, evening, and bedtime routines that you will be using once school is in session. With each child talk about the expectations or responsibilities you will have for them. As you think about the morning routine, identify the steps it will take for your child to get ready by the designated time. Some steps may include taking a shower, brushing teeth, getting dressed, packing a lunch, taking medicine, putting on shoes and locating a backpack.
As you think about the evening routine, identify the steps that your child will need to tend to following school dismissal. Some steps may include completing homework, doing chores, preparing for a sports practice or music lesson, reading minutes for monthly book report.
As you think about the bedtime routine, identify steps that help your child wind down for rest. Some steps may include taking a shower, brushing teeth,listening to music, reading a book by herself or to a sibling, connecting with mom or dad before climbing into bed.
For younger children, consider creating a chart with words or pictures with the steps for these routines so they can refer to it during the routine time. It is helpful in promoting independence and keeps you from having to provide reminder statements. Practice the steps to morning, evening or bedtime routines the week before school starts.
3. Preparations-Invite your child to go shopping for supplies, new clothes, new lunchbox or back pack. This activity provides connection time for you and your child, as well as creates excitement about the start of school for some children. Allow your child to organize supplies once you return home.
4. Support for School Changes—As your child transitions from elementary to middle or from middle to high school, it is typical to have some anxiety.
Be available to have conversations with your child about any worries she may have and take time to help her identify possible solutions for these worries.
5. Starting Kindergarten— You can begin preparing your child for the experience by talking about it ahead of time.
It can be helpful to read books about starting school. The MidContinent Public Library has a great resource list for books about starting school, making new friends, and riding a school bus.
Talk about the feelings and thoughts of the characters in the book with your child. If you have older children in the home, have them share about their positive experiences at school.
Consider finding a small item that your child may place in her pocket that will remind her of you. If your child feels overwhelmed or misses you, she can touch or look at the item to find comfort.
Most importantly in preparing for kindergarten is managing your anxiety about the big day as your child will take cues from you. For an entire article on this topic, Click here.
6. Support Organizational Skills—For older children, it is helpful to review some basic organizational skills to help them start the year off in a positive way. Review strategies for keeping a locker or backpack cleaned out so items do not get lost or misplaced.
When using a binder, discuss different ways to organize the folders by subject, by hour, by homework or completed assignments. Review ways to use a planner or calendar to track assignments, upcoming tests, and project due dates.
If you child struggles with organizational skills then having a weekly conversation about these areas may be beneficial to staying organized long term.
7. Acknowledge Emotions—The beginning of school can bring a range of emotions so be open to conversations with your child about what he may be feeling about the start of a new school year.
8. Attend Events —Attending the events held at school prior to the official start dates help prepare your child’s mindset for the start of school. A visit to the school allows your child the chance to tour the school and locate rooms and see new faces which can decrease anxiety.
If you have a child entering a new building, this step is especially important. With children new to middle school or high school, it is helpful to tour the building after you have obtained the class schedule so your child can determine the path he will take to get to each class. It can also be helpful to locate his locker and practice the lock combination.
Your attendance at events like meet the teacher or curriculum night also demonstrates to your child the importance of education. These events also allow you as a parent to begin building a relationship with your child’s teacher(s). This early relationship building will be helpful later in the year when you have questions or if concerns arise.
With these tips, you can prepare your children for a great transition from summer to the start of school. Taking time to prepare for the transition allows everyone-parents and children- to enjoy the moment more and experience less stress. As you start that first day of school, remember your camera! Capture the moment so you can reminisce on graduation day!
Amy Thompson is a child and family therapist at Rejuvenate Mind-Body Wellness Center. She works with children, adolescents and their families. Amy has received training in Conscious Discipline by attending Conscious Discipline Institute I and II. If you are experiencing problems with helping your child transition, whether that is due to school, divorce, death, or new siblings, Amy Thompson can help.