- Talk to your kids about the back to school experience: One of the best places to start this conversation is around how we present the return to school to kids. This gives them the “lens” or the “frame” from which to view the experience so it is crucial that you try to set a tone of positivity. A great way to frame the new year is as a fun new adventure where they will experience exciting things! The beginning of the school year can feel very exciting and positive when children are taught to view it like they would New Year’s Eve/Day.
- *Important side note, please do not talk to your child about the coming school year as something YOU are looking forward to in order to get away from him/her! (Even if you feel that way, which is understandable, just don’t say it out loud to your child!) That only creates insecurity in your connection with your child and makes school seem like the bad guy.
- Set some goals or fun ideas about the year: Help your kids identify goals and what they might be looking forward to for the year. Start a conversation about new beginnings and how they are an opportunity to review how things are going and what they might want to work on. Make sure to incorporate what they are excited about or looking forward to about the year!
- Difficult years: If your child had a challenging year the previous year, have a talk with him/her about how to be more successful in the coming year. What did they learn over the past year that they can implement this year? Help them come up with strategies to deal with possible challenges so that they can go into the year well prepared. This will also help them manage some of their nerves about the coming year and hopefully prevent them from shutting down or giving up on the year before it even starts. It’s important your child knows you are on their side at the beginning and throughout the year.
- Feelings matter too! Try to open a dialogue regarding how your child is feeling about the year. It makes sense to start the conversation by sharing that people often may have mixed feelings about the year (nervous, excited, unsure, sad that summer is over, happy to see friends and start learning again) and that all feelings are okay. Validate how they are feeling about the return to the school year, particularly if they are feeling nervous and/or uncomfortable about the unknown. It’s important to share with your kiddos that these feelings are natural and find out if there are ways you can help them through it. Sometimes, particularly for more anxious kids, it helps to take a tour of the school or walk through a school day (literally or just imagining it) to prepare them for what to expect.
- Sleep and scheduling: Summer days/nights are so fun that often our sleep and schedules get completely messed up. This can be challenging for kids to return to school, with the typically very early rising and earlier bedtimes. It helps if you can begin preparing your child to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier a few weeks before, especially if your child struggles in these types of schedule adjustments and transitions. A good rule of thumb is to try to help your child to adjust to schedule differences a half hour at a time over a few days. So, just bump up their bedtime and the time you/they wake up about a half hour every few days to help them be their best selves the first day of school.
- Structure Helps! I firmly believe in setting structure at the beginning of the school year so that your child knows what the expectations are up front. This might be a new chore chart, schedule or after school rhythm, organization system in the home for homework and after school activities, or a privilege/points system for an older child. Either way, it helps set everyone up for success if you set those expectations up ahead of time!
I hope these tips are useful and helpful for you and your family! If at any point, you would like some help preparing your child for the transition back to school or in making a difficult transition more successful after the year has started, feel free to contact me to schedule an appointment!
Thank you for reading! Feel free to add in any tips of your own in the comments section!