As summer comes to a close, the transition back to school has started creeping up all around us. Big displays in every store, class assignments coming in the mail, summer camps wrapping it up–it’s hard to avoid.
And though it is often disguised under the excitement of another year starting, this time of year can be hard for both kids and parents.
Kids, who have spent the last two months playing with friends, sleeping away at camp, enjoying the sunshine and wide open schedules, suddenly have to get back to a firm routine (scheduled around something they’d often rather not be doing!).
New boundaries have to be set, new schedules have to be juggled, and parents have to be ready for new conflicts that may crop up in a new class, with a new teacher. A new year of school can bring higher level work, and children who struggle with school work can come to dread this time of year, making it hard on themselves and their parents who are trying to support them.
Not all children struggle with the transition between summer break and a new school year–some are even excited to get back! A new year means a new class, a chance to make new friends and try new things. But while some children eagerly await the return to school, others fret over the stress, and feel anxiety or wariness at the idea of jumping back in.
It’s easy to get caught in the Easy Transition = Good Parenting trap. But whether your child transitions from summer into a new school year easily or not is not a judgement on your parenting. If your child has difficulty transitioning back into school every summer, it doesn’t mean they are a bad kid or that you’re a bad parent. It just means you have to find new methods to guide and support them to help them navigate this tricky time of year.
So how can you help them?
1). Allow them to feel whatever it is they’re feeling:
Telling them not to be so grumpy isn’t going to work! If they are dreading the new school year, let them dread it. They don’t have to transform into a kid who is excited to start school again, they just have to start school again. Shutting down what they are feeling won’t make them feel what you want them to. By letting them feel it, you’re giving them the time and space to explore that feeling, to live it, until it passes. Pushing it down won’t get rid of it! Eventually they will get over the grumpiness and adjust to the new routine.
2). Keep yourself organized:
There can be a lot of chaos at the start of a new school year! Lots of letters coming in from the school about class assignments, supply lists, paperwork that needs to be filled out, and on and on. Give yourself a designated spot to keep all of the back-to-school papers. And, as soon as you’re given dates: put them in your calendar. You won’t have to go searching for the date of when you’re supposed to do X, because it will already be in your schedule. When you know exactly where to go looking when you need back to school related info, the stress on you will ease. And when your stress is eased, you’ll be able to better support your child with their transition.
3). Start the bedtime routine before school starts:
When your child is on summer break, chances are the bedtime routine isn’t as strictly enforced as during the school year. However, that means when the school year does start they will be out of practice getting into bed and falling asleep in time enough to get a good night’s rest. Kids have to be up early for school, and a good night's rest is very important for them to stay energized, allow for focus throughout the day, and in keeping their mood boosted. Start the transition back gradually. Give you & your child time to get back to the point where the bedtime routine is easy & natural. Then that’s one less stressor you have to worry about once they’re actually back in school.
The most important part of the transition, is letting your child know you’re there to help them when it is hard. Ask them how their day was, really listen when they answer, offer help if they need it.