There’s excitement in the air as summer comes to a close. Children have new backpacks, shoes, and supplies and are joyfully nervous about meeting their new teachers. This excitement is a normal, healthy part of going back to school.
However, once the novelty wears off, some children may display challenging behaviors and emotions regarding school. For example, they may begin sulking in the morning, refusing to get into the car or bus, and even go so far as to declare hating school. This, while unsettling, is also normal.
The most common reason for such dramatic changes is that reality has set in. Going from laid-back summer days to a more rigid school schedule is a tough transition, and as students get older, each new year comes with increased responsibility and expectations.
Many young children struggle with this change because they’ve imagined what school will be like, and reality is often far different. Kindergarten, in particular, is a new experience with expectations and demands unlike preschool or daycare.
No matter your student’s age, transitioning back to school can cause them to exhibit strong emotions and behaviors. And if you or a teacher responds critically, your student may feel like they’ve lost the support they desperately need during this fragile time. To avoid this issue, parents and caregivers must take steps to ease the school transition. Here are some back-to-school prep tips to help your student start the new year off on the right foot!
Tips for Successful Back-to-School Prep
1. Organize Your Calendar
Begin your back-to-school prep well in advance by assessing your calendar. First, put in all school events for the year so you’re organized as the months go by and activities ramp up. Then, clear the calendar for the first few weeks of school to allow plenty of downtime and rest while your child acclimates.
That said, sprinkle in a few fun activities during those first few weeks. Just because summer has ended doesn’t mean family activities need to also. Plus, this helps create strong family bonds and allows decompression during the school transition.
2. Get Familiar With the Changes
Make an effort to become familiar with the new environment and people. Visit the school ahead of time so your child knows where they’re going, and be sure to meet with their teachers if given the opportunity. Talk about the school-year schedule, develop a morning routine for a smooth start, gradually build up the routine, and even do a practice run the week before school starts.
While you don’t want to rush the end of summer, dropping in small moments of preparation can go a long way in making your child feel more comfortable with the upcoming transition.
3. Anticipate Pain Points and Create Solutions
As you familiarize yourself with the changes, try to note areas of your life that you can adjust to make things run more smoothly. Some questions to get you started are:
- Is there a drop zone for backpacks, jackets, and sports gear?
- Do you have a supply area so your child avoids scrambling around for materials when doing homework?
- Are you emphasizing good sleep habits and eating a healthy breakfast?
- Do you have a plan for making school lunches in advance?
- Have you established a home routine that creates stability and predictability? Consider making a routine chart so that even the youngest children can follow along.
Having these pain points solved in advance can avoid frustration later. Any shortcut you can devise will be invaluable during the back-to-school transition!
4. Manage Emotions—Both Theirs and Yours!
During this time, your child will need extra reassurance and care. Therefore, it’s essential to validate their feelings before trying to problem solve for them. Sometimes, simply naming their emotion and recognizing it makes it seem less scary.
Remember that adults can set the tone, so managing your feelings of concern or anxiety will help you present a positive attitude and give your child an example of coping well. Read stories about back-to-school transition or separation anxiety, like The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, if needed. Sometimes even giving them a physical reminder of home, such as a photograph or special bracelet, will provide extra reassurance.
Over time, taking the transition at the beginning of each school year will likely become easier. Talk to your children about their feelings and involve them in decision-making as you determine how to prepare your family for the school transition. Using these tips for back-to-school prep will assure your child that you’ve got their back and are setting them up for success.