Aah, Back To School…the time when moms and dads rejoice, and well, our children…it depends. That is, it depends on how we (the parents) treat this time of year. Most young children take their emotional cues from those they love and trust, their parents. I know you’re well aware of the term, “modeling” but it goes without saying that your children are really looking to you (at all times) when trying to figure out how to feel about different situations and how to act in a multitude of scenarios - this time of year and always. As you talk to your children about heading back into the classroom and onto the school yeard, there are a few key things to keep in mind for a smooth transition back to school.
For starters, summer time is all about flexibility and spontenaeity. While that is fun and typically works – longer days, less responsibility to scheduiling conflicts, etc.,- all of a sudden, there are play dates, longer school days, after school activities and routines to be followed. The most basic rule of thumb here is to ease back into a routine slowly and respectfully. Try my Top Ten Tips for transitioning back into your school routine:
1. Start talking about the impending new routine, positively, about 2 weeks before the first date of school. Focus on a few fun and exciting pieces of routine, i.e., a new lunch box, seeing friends that have been missed over the Summer, a wonderful new teacher, etc. The more joy you can create around the "unknown", the better.
2. If you can do a drive-by or even better, a school visit, to walk around the campus, visit the new classroom and say "hi" to the new teacher, this will help ease first-day jitters since the "new" will already be "old".
3. Talk about some new lunch options. Get your child excited by visiting his favorite super market and picking out a few new snacks together. Practive packing lunches together.
4. Put together a few play dates with friends that you know are in your child's class. Encourage them to play "pretend" for the first day of school. Listen in and you might gain some insight as to their fears, anxieties or what they're excited for. This will open the door for discussions....
5. Start the new routine 1 week before school. This should include appropriate bath, getting ready for bed and "lights out" timing, lay out clothing for the morning, place backpack by the front door and ensure lunches are packed and in the fridge.
6. This one is for you, mom and dad - write a simple note to your child's teacher. Some teachers will ask you for this prior to school starting or within the first week but many don't. This is a great way for you teacher to "get to know" your child and for you to give them some tips. Don't go overboard here...teachers can be pretty overwhelmed the first couple of weeks, as well. One or two great paragraphs does the trick and most teachers will be especially appreciative.
7. Day before first day of school: Set the alarm and do a dry run to school, including it all! Get dressed, pack a lunch, get in car and drive to school. You can even let your child get out and walk into school. This is a fun exercise that really makes them feel comfortable and in-control.
8. Write a (short) letter to your child about your hopes for their upcoming school year. Share it with them on the eve of their first day. This is a great opener for you to talk about the year and share yours and your child's excitement and fears for this special time.
9. For children who are visual learners, create a visual timeline and hang it in their room. This exercise gives your child a sense of control over their day, ensuring much smoother transitions.
10. Finally, create a special breakfast for first day of school and celebrate this transition with your child. After all, they only have 1 first day of school for each new grade level whether it's preschool, kinder, fifth or even high school. And don't forget to take a picture for their scrapbook before they head out into the big, wide world.
Lastly, mom and dad, remember that while going to school may seem a whole lot more fun then spending a day sitting at a desk, this is a huge transition for your child. Be mindful of their feelings. They may be anxious, excited, fearful, sad, joyful. These are all to be expected and should be honored. Just remember, this too shall pass.