With summer coming to an end and school about to begin, is your child ready to make the transition from vacation to “school mode?” asks a clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital.
“Some children may not even be thinking about going back to school until the first morning of classes, while others may be experiencing a lot of anxiety about what school will be like,” says Gabrielle Roberts, Ph.D.
With many schools starting next week, now may be a good time to start easing back into the school schedule. Bedtime routines and meal schedules should be adjusted in advance so that your child’s body clock is in sync for the first day of school.
“If you typically put your child to bed and read to him or her at a set time during the school year, start doing that now. If there are school-year chores that are not required during the summer, start those up as well. Begin reinitiating some of those routines now,” Dr. Roberts urges. “Realize that the transition to a new school year requires a large adjustment and that it is okay for children to have mixed emotions about their return to school.”
Even if your child's school has already started, it's still not to late to quell opening week jitters. Dr. Roberts also recommends opening a dialogue with your children to gauge their anxiety level – if any – about what they’re looking forward to most about returning to school. The positive dialogue will remind your child of the joy found in school, she says.
Bullied children may also fear starting another school year because they are wondering if they will be bullied again. “Parents need to send their children the message that you hear them, understand them and take the problem seriously,” Dr. Roberts says.
“If your child’s bullying was addressed in the previous year, emphasize that something already has been done about it. If the problem was not previously resolved, reassure the child that you will work to solve it.” Dr. Roberts recommends setting up a meeting with the school principal, counselor or a teacher.
Parents can also offer concrete reassurance for those children starting the year at a new school. An advance visit to the new school can help children feel more comfortable and confident by familiarizing themselves with the building and playground.
“Provide solutions. Tell your children what they can do when various issues arise. Discuss your child’s feelings and anxiety,” she says.
Dr. Roberts offers the following tips to ensure a smooth transition to the school year:
- Find out what part of the school day your child most looks forward to (recess, gym, snack time, etc.). Reminding your child how he or she enjoys this part of the day will help maintain a positive attitude about school.
- Continue a school plan that worked in previous years, whether it is a weekly meeting with the counselor or a reward system set up for managing homework. “You would rather set up your child up for success now rather than watch him or her scramble later when things are not working well,” Dr. Roberts says.
- Find an extracurricular activity or club that your child enjoys—inside or outside of school. Having a pleasurable activity to look forward to can enhance their overall mental health and happiness.
- Be an ear; listen to your children.
- If children are facing a difficult time at school, remind them that they are not alone.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As a parent of a child at any age, a support system is available to help you help your child. Teachers, counselors and principals are all invested in your child’s success at school.
Source: Advocate Children's Hospital