As the bell rings in a new school year, children from kindergarten to high school are making that transition from leisurely summertime activities to a brand-new, sometimes challenging adventure. Child and family therapist Dr. Andrea Weiner offers some advice on easing the transition from summer vacation to school.
Parents can help their kids make a less stressful shift back to the school routine by getting them excited about all the possibilities a new year brings.
Focus on the positive
Your child will enjoy the beginning of the school year if you focus on the positive. Talk to your child about the fun activities and new friends he or she will make. For many children, reuniting with old friends they haven’t seen since school’s been out is also a real motivator.
You can also remind your child about the highlights of the previous school year: about being the teacher’s hand-picked helper for a week, receiving an “A” on a difficult spelling exam, or scoring the winning point during a school football game. By allowing your child to focus on past accomplishments, it also encourages him or her to achieve more during the new school year.
Ease into the routine
Getting back into the swing of school means getting back into a routine. Expect that the first few weeks your might be more tired as they get used to the earlier hours and the amount of work they now have to do. Having well-rested children is key to reducing the stress of changing from summer hours to school hours. Therefore,parents need to establish guidelines for bedtime.
Help younger children practice a back-to-school routine by doing dry runs for a week or so before school starts. This practice should include such things as going to bed at a certain time, getting up and dressing, and eating breakfast by a specific time. Continue the routine after school starts until they have adjusted to the new schedule and are comfortable with it.
Help your child adjust to the workload
Another major obstacle in a child’s back-to-school transition is feeling stressed about the educational workload in the upcoming year. Many children worry about whether they will be able to handle the harder subjects that come with entering a new grade. Assure your child that you and the teacher are there to assist her or him.
Another way you can help is by discussing the effects of effort versus performance. Stressing the importance of excellent effort instead of grades can alleviate early fears of not doing well academically.
Practice social skills
For many children, the new school year means having to make new friends in a new grade or even a new school. If your child has trouble making new friends, you can role-play different conversation openers that can help them break down awkward barriers. One such “ice-breaker” could be “I like your new backpack! Where did you get it?” Practicing conversation skills around the dinner table is another way for children to become more confident in making new friends.
Every year, the back-to-school transition provides children with an opportunity to build on each prior year’s lessons on how to deal with change. Transitions do not have to be difficult. By setting a positive tone, establishing a routine, relieving the pressure of the academic workload, and practicing social skills with children, parents can ensure the new school year starts off on a high note!
Dr. Andrea “Andie” Weiner, a child therapist and author of The Best Investment: Unlocking the Secrets of Social Success for Your Child. For more information on Weiner, go to http://drandie.com. Or, learn more about the National PTA.