Tips for a Smooth Transition Back to School
Depending on the child, the first day of school is one that is eagerly anticipated, or one that’s intensely dreaded. In my household, I have one of each type of child. My girl loves going back to school. She adores school and all that it entails—reading, writing, friends, and even the homework. My boy, on the other hand, would be perfectly content if summer lasted the entire year, or at least until the December holiday break, after which summer could start up again right where it left off.
Regardless of where your child is on this spectrum, it’s important to make the transition as pleasurable as possible, while being sensitive each child’s unique feelings about going back to school. After all, the transition back to school can be quite dramatic—going from virtually no structure and routine, to complete structure where every minute of the day is scheduled and planned. In light of this, here are some of my favorite ideas for easing kids back into the structure and routine of school.
Do a summer recap. Sit down with your kids for a few minutes and talk about the fun times you and your family enjoyed this summer. This will help you end the summer on a high note—remembering the good times, and help you plan for next year. Which activities, camps, or outings did everyone enjoy? Which ones would it be okay to pass up next summer? Are there any activities you missed this summer—things you planned to do but never got around to?
In my household, there’s a bit of disappointment that we didn’t make *enough* trips to the pool this summer. Honestly, it was a bit too chilly this year to spend a bunch of time hanging out in an unheated pool! However, knowing that one child didn’t get her fill of summer pooling means we can plan a pool outing before summer ends, or even once school is in session. The end of summer, after all, doesn’t have to mean then end of fun—a great message to share with the kiddos.
Talk about the upcoming school year. While you’re chatting with your kids, ask them what they’re excited about in terms of the upcoming school year. For kids like my son, this can take a bit of probing and a bit more digging to help them unearth the fun that really does take place at school. Even if it’s lunch time, recess, or just being in the oldest class in the school this year, finding the high points can help ease the transition back. While you’re at it, find out if your child is nervous about the upcoming school year, and then help them work through those nerves. This is particularly important if your child is attending a new school. Talk about how the lunch line works, or take a quick tour of the school so your child knows how to find his or her classroom, the bathroom, and the bus line.
Gradually adjust your schedules. A week or so before school starts, start shifting bedtimes and wake-up times by few minutes each day. My kids’ summer bedtimes are off by about an hour compared to our school year schedule. So the week before school starts, we’ll start shifting back bedtime by ten minutes or so each night. (And the week before that we’ll start talking about this upcoming shift, so no one is surprised when bedtimes start getting earlier and earlier.) This gradual shift in bedtimes will make waking up on the first day of school much more bearable (for all of us)!
Create an end-of-the-summer tradition. Say farewell to summer with a simple treat for the entire family to enjoy. It could be as simple as a trip to the ice cream shop, or fixing your kids’ favorite meal for dinner. Or you could plan a picnic in the park, a BBQ with friends, or a trip to the beach or the pool.
Have something to look forward to. One of the best things about starting school in August is that we have a three-day weekend just around the corner. Having something like that to look forward to makes the transition easier. If a three-day weekend isn’t on the horizon when your kids go back to school, schedule your own event , such as a neighborhood get-together, a sleepover with friends, or even a stay-at-home movie night with popcorn and lemonade. Put your something-to-look-forward-to on the family calendar to keep it top of mind for your whole family.
Decide to have a great year! It’s important to tap into your own feelings about the school year. Are you on the excited anticipation end of the spectrum, or do you dread sending your kiddos back to school? If you’re apprehensive about the upcoming school year in any way, sort that through and look for ways to frame it positively for yourself and your child. Remember, your kids reflect what you’re thinking and feeling. If you’re excited about the upcoming school year, chances are they will be, too!
I’d love to hear your ideas for making the transition back to school easier and more fun for both your kids and you. Please share your ideas in the comments! I look forward to hearing from you.