How to Psyche Your Kids Up For the First Day Back
A new school year is a time of guarded optimism and nervous excitement. By September most kids are ready to head back to the classroom. Still, the transition from the lazy days of summer to the rigorous routine of fall can be tough. No more going to bed late, sleeping in every morning or playing outside until dark.
Now it’s time to adhere to a stricter time schedule and adapt to a new teacher and a host of other academic challenges. For some students, September also means starting all over in a different school where everything from the teacher right down to his classmates is new.
Whether your child is returning to a familiar school or starting in a new one, this kind of transition can bring on stress and cause him to resist necessary adjustments. As adults, we aren’t prone to feeling uncomfortable or anxious when facing a new situation. Just imagine how overwhelmed your child must feel when faced with the annual ‘unknown’ ritual of new teachers, classmates, and more challenging homework.
To help our children we must first learn to view the situation from their perspective. Explain to young children how their daily routines will change. Describe in detail what a typical day will be like. You might also want to discuss how your child’s new school environment will differ from last year.
Help your child adapt by making preparations in advance, clearly explain the changes that are about to take place and take the time to listen if doubts or fears develop.
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, making smooth transitions between home and school can help children feel good about themselves. And, we all know how important encouraging self-esteem in youth is. Helping children adapt to new situations can also ease parents’ minds and give them a chance to become more involved in their children’s education.
Following are some back to school tips for making the transition between summer and school easier.
Gear up for the day-to-day routine of school by adding structure to your child’s schedule in the last weeks of August. Start the day with writing in a journal or doing a drawing exercise followed by active play. Finish up with some quiet time.
Stroke your child’s enthusiasm
Ease your child’s back to school jitters with lots of positive messages, like “I hear Mrs. Alexander is a terrific teacher,” or “This is the year you finally get to go to the planetarium”.
Are vaccinations, dental treatments and eye exams up to date? Pulling kids out of class when the school year is gearing up is disruptive. Try to schedule any check-ups before school starts.
Phase in an earlier bedtime
It may still be light outside but the clock reads 8 p.m. your child’s usual weekday bedtime. If you hope to have him well rested come the first week of school, its wise to start phasing in an earlier bedtime the last week of August. Kids’ usually require about 10 hours of shut-eye a night and it’s a known fact that sleep deprivation wrecks concentration.
Start off a few days earlier by revising his after dinner routine. Move away from evenings spent outdoors to more relaxed indoor activities. Slower paced family activities like reading together or playing board games is a great start. Gradually pull back the turn-in time.
For instance, if your goal is lights out at 8 p.m. set bedtime for 9 p.m. three days before school starts, for 8:30 p.m. the following night, and for 8 p.m. back-to-school eve. Or, try the reverse (or a combination of both) and have your kids set their alarms for earlier wake-ups the last few days of summer.
Celebrating the first day back is also a great way to get the school year off to the best possible start. Arrange to go to work late or take the day off. Bring out your camera and put a special note in your child’s backpack. Close out the day by going out for dinner or ice cream.