Easing Into Back-to-School

Reduce the stress of summer-to-school days transitions Parenting 911.

Originally Published in Colorado Parent Magazine.

Q: How do I help my child go back to all of the peer stresses of school days after an easy-going summer? The mood shift at first is really hard.

With school right around the corner, many parents are asking this same question. If your child is nervous about the peer stresses of school, it can be helpful to give him some social “warm up” time before school starts. Just as your child’s brain benefits from practicing spelling, social practice is just as helpful to get your child back in the groove.

Here are some tips:

Tutoring and Learning Support - Child Therapist• Increase your child’s play dates. Help your child identify other children that make him feel good about himself and build on those friendships. Often, children need just one or two good friends to help them feel socially secure at school.

• Make back-to-school night a priority. Your child will have the chance to socialize with peers and may also find that he feels excited about the start of school.

• Create a positive association with the first day of school. Plan a fun social outing for your child and his friends at the end of first day of school. This can help your child look forward to school and feel more connected to children in his class.

Help Your Child Feel Confident

Feeling confident will also help your child experience a smooth transition back to school. To help strengthen your child’s self-esteem before school:

• Talk things out. Really listen to your child’s concerns about school and peers.

• Validate what your child is feeling. Let her know that her thoughts and emotions are normal and most kids feel this way, not just her.

Focus on the Positives

Help your child remember what she liked best in school, the subjects or activities she was good at, and good times she had with peers. Remembering and reliving these positive experiences will help your child feel more confident about herself and less worried about the first week of school.

Q: How do I get my child back into a school days schedule without a battle?

For most kids, the abrupt transition from an easy-going summer schedule to a structured school schedule can be a challenge. One of the best things you can do to help your child adjust is to ease her into a routine similar to her school schedule, before school starts.

• Consider adjusting your child’s sleep schedule. If your child is used to sleeping in, she may have challenges waking up early for school. It typically takes children about a week to adjust to a new sleep routine, so consider having her go to bed and wake up at the times she will need to when school begins.

• Add academic activities into your end of summer schedule. After a long break from the classroom, many children have a hard time jumping back into the educational demands of school. This is often a contributing factor to the stress of the first few weeks of school. To help your child feel more confident, start practicing reading, writing and math to wake up those brain cells and give your child a head start.

By planning ahead and easing back into school schedules and social routines, your child is more likely to have a smoother transition, and may even look forward to going back to school.

Anya Beebe is a licensed professional counselor, art therapist, certified COPE parent trainer and mother of two. www.WholeHeartParenting.com

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