Note: This is part one of a two-part series.
The start of a school year can be a challenging time for children and parents with transitions from one grade to another, new teachers, bullying, social pressure and much more. With a little preparation and the right attitude, shifting from a laid back summer to the routine of school doesn’t have to be difficult.
Before school starts…
- Talk about the transition back to school. Explore with your children their excitements as well as fears. Try to help your children work through their fears and get excited for the upcoming wonderful parts of the new school year. Stay positive! If you show your enthusiasm for what the new school year brings, your kids are sure to pick up on it, and the nervous energy will turn into excitement.
- Establish fun traditions around the start of school. Do something fun the night or days before school starts, such as a special once a year desert. Make it a time they look forward to every year.
- Create a “school year” schedule that includes consistent bedtimes, wake up times, homework schedule and meal time. Start that routine before the school year. That way there will be fewer elements to adjust to at the start of school.
- Homework load – make a plan for where and when homework will be done. Is it always done at the kitchen table right after school, or is there a desk your child uses and homework time will be after dinner? Stick to a schedule so it’s always part of the evening routine. Discuss with your children the amount and type of after school activities during the school year. Help your children set realistic expectations that allow them to be successful both in this activity and school commitments such as homework.
- Go through expectations ahead of time about getting dressed, eating breakfast, and appropriate grooming so that everyone gets out the door on time. Build in rewards and potential consequences beforehand for following through on those routines.
- Get organized! Establish a family calendar where all after school events and important assignment due dates are easy to spot. Prepare school bags and clothes the night before, arrange books and school supplies on shelves or in boxes or drawers, organize all paperwork by priority, and make a single to-do list of all the tasks you need to complete each day.
First day of school….
- For younger children, include a family photo or a special note in their backpack or lunchbox to help them get through their day.
- Establish some fun traditions around the first day of school, such as a special breakfast or dinner, or a first day of school photo.
- Make time to talk about the first day, include in the discussion the exciting elements and the fears.
–Scott Cypers, PhD, is a child, adolescent and adult psychologist at the Johnson Depression Center. Dr. Cypers’ primary clinical and research interests focus on anxiety and stress-related issues.