They’re Back!

How to Help your Child Transition into a Successful School Year

It is that time of year again!  The busyness and fun of summer has come to an end and is replaced by the busyness and fun of the upcoming school year. Now that the new school year for your child is in full swing, you may be faced with unknowns and are starting to feel overwhelmed. So, the question that may be most on your mind is how can I best support my child as they return to school, while also understanding and working through my own nervousness for the upcoming year?

The first thing to remember is you aren’t alone! Having your child transition back into school can be a challenging time for many reasons and COVID has only added to the list of worries.  The best place to start is with your child’s school.  Keeping the communication line open with your child’s teacher is important because like you, they also want your child to succeed and thrive to the best of their ability. Your student’s teacher can help with keeping you up to date on classroom schedule and changes, follow along with student’s academics, understand how you can better support your child with school, get a better idea of your child’s behaviors with peers and school staff, and address areas your student may be struggling with.  It can be a cause of stress to be away from your child for 8 hours a day Monday through Friday, so by creating the parent teacher relationship to shed light on what your child is doing throughout this time, it can help relieve some of the overwhelming feelings you may be having about your child being back in school.   It is important to remember, however, your child is not the only one in their teacher’s class and teachers are also getting settled into the new school year, so discuss with your student’s teacher about their preferred communication and what they are comfortable with.

The time after the school day ends can also be a time when you start to feel overwhelmed.  At this point your family arrives home from school and everyone is tired or frustrated from the day and then you have to ask your child to do homework and it leads to a fight or complete meltdown.  It probably seems easier to give up and give in, but the best way to work through the start of the school year challenges is by creating and maintaining an after-school routine right away.  Your child is coming home from having their entire school day scheduled and having very clear rules, so it is important to continue something similar when they arrive home from school.  Each family is different and there is no one structured routine or rules that fit all, so use trial and error to find out what works best for your family.  Things to a successful routine, however, include clear expectations such as homework will be started at a set time daily and bedtime will be the same time every night, positive reinforcement which is the idea of your child working towards a preferred item (screen time, favorite snack, parent/child one on one time, a game, etc.) rather than having the item taken away, and maintaining consistency.  By adding a structured routine, it can help with reducing the feeling of unknown that both you and your child are feeling about transitioning from summer back into the school year.

Lastly, even if it doesn’t always seem as though your child wants you around, more times than not they do and just don’t know how to ask.  Back to school is a time of change for both you and your child and being present to help them navigate this transition period is best way to work through the many emotions you both are feeling.  Start with asking your child direct questions after school to minimize the “I don’t know” or “it was fine” responses.  Some examples of questions to try including are tell me what made you smile today, did you have a thumbs up or thumbs down day today, what was your favorite/least favorite thing you learned, what did you play at recess, who did you play with at recess, tell me three things you liked/disliked about school today, what is the biggest difference about this year vs. last year, what was a hard thing you did today, what made your teacher happy/mad today, tell me a story about something that happened today at school, or what are you looking forward to tomorrow at school? Being present and open with your child, while also validating their feelings can help both you and your child feel more comfortable with transitioning back to school.

At the end of the day, going back to school is not an exact science and every day is not going to be perfect for either you or your child, so don’t be too hard on yourself when things don’t work out the way you want and the overwhelming feeling creeps back in.  Remember to take it one day at a time and the new school year will be great for both you and your child!

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