Whether your kids recently returned to school or are heading back soon (like mine), as parents, we all want to help our children transition back to school successfully!
We want our kids to feel calm, happy and confident as they embark on their new school year, and we want to smoothly get back into the school routine within the family too.
It can be challenging for both kids and adults to get back into a regular schedule after the often more flexibly scheduled summer months, and as with all times of transition, it can be helpful to have some strategies for success.
Here are 5 strategies to help with the transition back to school for children and parents alike:
1. Get Back Into Routines (Before They Need to Start)
Holiday times away from school tend to bring with them more relaxed routines around bedtimes, meal and snack times, and other elements that bring structure and rhythm to the day. You can help your child get prepared for the school-day rhythm by having them go to bed earlier, get up at the time they will need to get up for school, and get dressed and ready to go for the day. It can be helpful to plan morning activities that get you and your kids out of the house in the final weeks of summer, so that the early morning routines are well underway before the first day of school arrives.
Talk about upcoming routines that you need to have in your family once the school year starts. For example, what will the after-school routine be; what activities will they be part of (music lessons, sports, etc.)? This will help them start getting a sense of the weeks and months ahead.
2. Make Back to School Shopping Fun
I fondly remember back-to-school shopping outings as a child with my mom. I loved getting new jeans, a 24-pack of pencil crayons (even though I had lots of pencil crayons left over from previous years), a new backpack and so forth. To this day, I love buying new office supplies and fresh journals in the fall. While buying binders and pens is the easy part of going back to school, making back-to-school shopping a fun outing with your kids can help build anticipation for a fresh start to the new school year.
You might also want to plan ahead and talk about what your kids want in their lunch, and get them involved in some grocery shopping that helps them prepare to help make their lunches. I downloaded a copy of a healthy food guide and I am having my boys make a list of items to include in a healthy lunch. We will then go shopping together to get these things.
3. Connect with Teachers and Your School Community
If you have the opportunity to touch base with your child’s teacher before school starts, it can help begin the parent-teacher relationship right, from the beginning of the school year. Attend classroom orientations, “meet and greets” and other events that may be offered through your child’s school. These bring you together with teachers, other parents and the school community.
Your children see that going back to school is a family affair, and that you, as a parent, are part of their school community. This can set a positive foundation for the school year ahead. It also creates familiarity and connection between you and the other adults, teachers and staff who have such an influence and important role in the day-to-day school experience for your child.
4. Reflect on Positive Summer Memories
Our children only have so many summer vacations and school breaks in their childhoods. (I try to remind myself of this on the days when my boys are squabbling with each other, and as their mom I just wish school would start – perhaps you can relate?) Summer vacation can be a joyful and fun time as a family. It can also be stressful at times, dealing with our kids’ extended break from school when juggling family and work responsibilities all at once.
Perhaps you have enjoyed some family holidays; your kids might have gone to camp or other special summer adventures. It can be helpful to acknowledge the highlights of your summer together. Make a family collage of photos; make a slideshow; write a journal of summer highlights. Or find some other fun and creative way to reflect on and capture the special memories from summer vacation. You can talk about your favourite family memories and the highs from the summer while you make your creation. This helps you and your children acknowledge the summer in a meaningful way, and it can be a positive family experience to reflect on the great memories you have made together.
If it has been a difficult summer for some reason (maybe you moved, or there has been illness in your family or other challenges to deal with), it can also be a chance to discuss this as a family and to draw out the good things that have come from the challenges. This helps to foster resilience and communication within your family – both of which are helpful for success in school and life.
5. Set Positive Intentions for the School Year Ahead
Kids can benefit from making goals and setting intentions for the school year ahead. You can help your child think and talk about their hopes, fears, goals and intentions for the school year by setting up a family time to discuss such things. I just finished writing some questions down on cue cards (recipe cards) to help facilitate this type of conversation with our sons (ages 10 and 8). This week-end, before they start school next week, we will have an intention sharing circle around a campfire in our yard.
Some of the questions (conversation starters) include: What is the one thing you really hope happens in grade 3 (or whatever grade your child is entering)? Who are you excited to spend time with at school? What do you want to learn about? What do you think the first week of school will be like? What worries or questions do you have about the school year ahead? What friends do you want to have play dates with once school gets started? What is your biggest wish for the school year ahead?
Pause for a moment and think about the strategies you already use for helping your child (and yourself) prepare to go back to school. What is effective? What helps during this time of transition? You are the expert in your family’s experiences. Wishing you the very best as you help your child prepare for back to school.
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