It is hard to believe that though it feels like it just started, summer is starting to come to an end. Schools are planning orientations, creating class schedules, and assigning teachers and classmates. While the adults in their lives are looking forward to the new school year with optimism and anticipation, children may not necessarily be feeling the same way.
Because children have fewer life experiences, and because their frontal lobe, or the part of their brain responsible for anticipating future events, is not fully formed, anticipation of an event is often confusing for children. It helps to ease a child into this new event by giving them verbal preparation, and behavioral rehearsal. Even for your seasoned middle or high-schooler, who has experienced the ebb and flow of summer for their entire school lives, the transition back to school still includes uncertainty.
It can help to talk through the expectations, such as what the daily schedule will look like, or practice with unlocking a locker. If your summer sleep schedule has created late nights, and late mornings, a gradual plan to move bedtime, and wake time, earlier in increments of 10-15 minutes can help your child adjust without the shock to their system of an extremely different sleep and wake time. It may also be helpful to try some “dry runs” of the morning routine, such as packing a lunch and backpack, practicing the walk or commute to school, and then practicing the afternoon routine, of coming home, having a snack or a break, and starting with a structured semi-academic task, to prepare for the homework that comes with fall.
Let your child know that their uncertainty and apprehension is normal, and healthy. While “Back to School” has become a commercialized event full of excitement and advertising, reassure your child that most children have similar, mixed feelings and uncertainty – and that they will not be alone in their feelings. Ask your child to tell you about their worries, and then try some of these helpful statements like “What else do we know about it?” or “What do you think would help when you feel worried about…?”
To avoid the trap of the daily homework battle, try to set up “Homework Consulting Hours” where your child is expected to complete the task independently, but know that there is a designated time that they can ask for your help – and that time can expire. This routine can be started in the summer, where a parent may wish to find a workbook or worksheet with grade relevant academic material. This can help build self-reliance, motivation, and a sense of accomplishment – and relieve some of the strain that can occur between parent and child.
The most important thing to remember with the transition back to school is that it is a process best started in small increments, early. A sudden change is a shock to the system, but with gradual supports, your child will be prepared and equipped for whatever the first day of school offers. And if you need more support with back to school worries or easing the transition, contact us. We can help!