Summer Days to School Days: Getting Through the Tough Transition
It’s time to say goodbye to the lazy days of summer and hello to beeping alarms, school busses, bulging backpacks and the seemingly endless choruses of “I don’t wanna go to school!"
Transitioning back to school from summer vacation can be challenging to some kids — even those who are excited to return to the classroom. Mornings are earlier, days are packed and more structured, and there are more opportunities to feel stressed and pressured.
Thankfully, there are ways to help make the transition easier for you and your child.
- Practice makes perfect: Re-establish morning, bedtime and meal routines a few days to a week before school starts. Keep the TV off in the mornings to minimize distractions. Encourage them to read or do quiet activities in the morning if there is extra time. Re-introduce anything you put on hold during the summer (doing chores, bedtime stories, etc.).
- Get them together: Arrange play dates with your child’s school friends before the first day, if possible. Reconnecting with school mates is a great way to ease anxiety.
- Clear the calendar: Make sure you are not over-extended the first week of school. Cancel any unecessary appointments, committee meetings or exercise classes. You want to make sure you have time available to help your child adjust — and time so you don’t feel extra pressured.
- Fall back: No one likes that feeling of being rushed. Set your alarm clocks with generous time windows in mind. Give yourself an extra 20 to 40 minutes during the first week to make sure everyone has enough time to eat a good breakfast and get to school. Be sure to dole out praise for kids who are cooperating.
- Unmuddle your morning: Complete (or help your child complete) any tasks you can the night before: making lunches, filling up their backpacks with books and assignments, laying out clothes. All these little things help make the mornings much easier.
- Send care packages: If your child is having anxiety about school, show her your support by putting a positive note or special treat in the lunch box or backpack.
- Be a good example: Children absorb their parents’ anxiety, so be sure to keep your emotions in check and put on a brave face — even if you are feeling nervous.
- Empower your kids: If your younger child is having trouble separating from you in the mornings, don’t overreact. Your child’s teachers are experts in helping struggling kids adjust. Try not to linger at drop off; give a gentle and brief goodbye and let them know you will be there at the end of the day.
- Talk it out: Before school starts, talk with your child about the upcoming school year. Encourage them to discuss any fears he may have. Remain positive and reassuring, and help him come up with strategies to manage his anxieties. Before you know it, everyone will be settled in to the school routine.
Reviewed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello Jr., MD
Date: August 2012