Preparing for the Transition to the New School Year
As summer draws to a close, your child’s emotional barometer is likely on the rise. That’s why it’s important to start gearing down for the upcoming school year.
Your child needs to feel calm and safe as they head into the school year, and there are things you can do to help them.
Here are some tips to help your children prepare for going back to school:
Quiet your schedule
Don’t try to “squeeze in” any last minute trips or events in the last week or two before school. On the contrary, this is the perfect time to spend some laid back time at home. You don’t have to go this entire time without any outings at all, but do be aware that your child will be “feeling” the upcoming school year. Don’t do too much, watch for signs of overwhelm and keep cool in the event of a meltdown.
Help your child to stick to a sleep routine
If you’ve been allowing a later bedtime during the summer, go ahead and start the shift back to an earlier bedtime now. If your child has been sleeping in later, be sure to wake them a little earlier each day, so they’re used to rising early by the start of the school year.
Have some low-key chats about school
When our kids are nervous about things, it’s tempting to avoid discussion. This is not the best approach. I suggest that you spend some time talking about potential concerns. Express empathy and let your child know that jitters are normal and shared by all kids. If it causes upset, at least you’ll have time to smooth the waters.
Plan a playdate
Plan a playdate or two with kids your child knows from school. This will help your child feel a bit more grounded and connected before school begins.
Tour the school
If possible, tour the school and try to set up a meeting with your child’s teacher. Seeing the school and meeting their teacher has the potential to ease a great deal of “pre-worrying!”
Shop for back-to-school goodies
Take your child shopping for back-to-school supplies. As much as possible, allow your child to choose their own supplies. You can even turn this into a learning opportunity by allowing your child to help you make a shopping list and then looking for the items together.
Plan a quiet family celebration
An intimate family celebration will give you a chance to wind down together and to review summer memories. Talk about your favourite experiences, look at your photos, and emphasize your child’s accomplishments. Perhaps
consider making this a family tradition!
Don’t forget to care for yourself, too!
As you begin to think about your children returning to school, or starting school for the first time, it can cause many feelings of apprehension and anxiety.
This is normal! But there are some ways you can alleviate your anxiety and help to ensure that your child is ready for the new school year.
Meet Your Child’s Teacher
If you’re able to meet with your child’s teacher before the start of school, you can sit down and take a few minutes to discuss your child and their special needs and unique personality.
You might want to even bring an “All About Me” written portrait of your child. This helps the teacher and other staff bridge their learning about your child and also sets the stage that you are an active, involved, committed parent.
Be sure to share anything that will be helpful for the teacher to understand and help your child including their supports (sensory devices, etc), strengths, weak areas, likes, dislikes and communication style.
Parents often find that by going through this process it helps them organize their knowledge and concern about their children and advocate for them more effectively.
Help Your Child to Take Responsibility
Help your child take responsibility for the kinds of things (consistent with their age) that they will need to do at school. Writing their name, tying shoes, organizing school materials and backpacks, etc.
With some guidance, your child can use starting school (or going back to school) as an opportunity to learn these types of skills.
If your family routine has changed during the summer, a couple of weeks before school starts is a great time to re-establish your old routine. That means making sure you not only go to bed and wake up at the appropriate times, but have your meals, run errands and have free time on the school day schedule.
You may want to practice for events and activities that will be new for your child, particularly if they are starting school for the first time. You can practice walking to school or down to the bus stop with your child.
You can go to the school and look at, talk about, and, if possible, play on the playground equipment. If you’re able to, visiting your child’s classroom ahead of time can be helpful, too.
Keep the Momentum Going
Taking some photos of your child playing on the playground equipment or meeting their teacher can be helpful for later learning opportunities. You can review these photos with your child periodically, to remind them of how they felt during these moments, what they learned, and how they can apply that knowledge to future situations at school.