By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
It’s so hard to believe that it is this time again, back to school! With some children returning as early as this week, I thought it would be helpful to do a quick blog talking about some tips I have picked up as a child psychologist to help children and families with the transition back to school.
1. Prepare them ahead of time: (for anxious children, please see the side note below)
Most people in our society function at their best when they have a routine and some structure to their days and weeks. Even so, the transition from summer to school time can be difficult after the freedom and fun of summer! As such, make sure your child knows when school is starting and how much longer they have of summer. This will help them know what to expect.
2. Start implementing your new schedule a few weeks early, particularly with sleep
At times, parents want to allow their child the freedom to enjoy every last bit of summer and kind of soak in the freedom they have…. This may lead them to make a very common mistake, which is not starting the school schedule until the week school starts. Unfortunately, for many kids, this makes the transition more difficult. So, as much as it may be a challenge, start a few weeks early particularly with your child’s sleep schedule. Adjust it back 15 minutes every few days until you are on a schedule more similar to the school schedule. This will help everyone be less frantic and more prepared on that first day of school!
3. Set up a place to do homework before school starts
Encourage your child to work with you on setting up a spot either in their room or in a common area in your home where they will do their school work. Make sure this is ready, this will help them mentally recognize that they are transitioning back to “Student mode” and away from “summer mode.”
4. Set up a daily schedule
Make sure you spend some time determining what your schedule and your child’s schedule is going to be like once they are back in school. For older kids, simply discussing it with them might be enough but for younger kids, it really helps to create a visual guide for them to know what to expect after school. (We will be posting more tips on schedules next week if you are interested in checking our blog out then!)
5. Visit the school, classroom, teacher if possible
Particularly if your child is changing schools, it is so important to take advantage of anything your school offers in terms of meeting the teacher ahead of time, seeing the classroom, or just going and visiting the school. This will help them visualize returning and hopefully you can then facilitate a conversation around how they are feeling about returning to school.
6. Allow your child a lot of autonomy in choosing their school supplies and clothes
I always like to see kids choosing their school supplies and clothes (as much as it is age appropriate to do so). This will help them be excited and proud to show off their fun new things and help ease the transition back!
7. Set up a family calendar
This could be a visual calendar that is used at home but it could also be an app on your phone you all use and share information on. Either way is fine! The most important part is just to have information being shared about schedules, particularly if you are anticipating that the year is going to start of busy with lots of activities!
8. Review your “house rules” as a family in advance so that everyone knows what to expect when school starts again
For many, summer is a time of fun, play, and less rules. If rules have shifted for your family during the summer, make sure to go over them again as a family before school starts so your child knows what to expect. That will help them make good choices as the year starts!
9. Be positive!
Lastly and likely most importantly, please talk about school in a positive way with your kids… for example, ask them what they are excited about or looking forward to this year? The more you are positive and supportive about their return to school, the more they will approach the year with curiosity, interest, and enthusiasm.
Special note about anxious children:
If your child experiences anxiety, they will need one of two things: MORE or LESS time to prepare. Some children with anxiety need a lot of time to prepare to feel ready. However, other children with anxiety need significantly less time to prepare because the more they know ahead of time, the more they worry and develop increased anticipatory anxiety. If your child tends to be anxious, make sure to tailor any recommendations with this in mind!
You can also contact our office to talk and consult about what might suit your particular child best in your preparation for back to school time. If you would like to talk with a Thrive Therapist about yourself, your child, or teen attending therapy with one of us, please reach out to us either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 858-342-1304.
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As always, thanks for reading and comments are always welcome regarding any issues around child, teen psychotherapy and adult psychotherapy services at Thrive Therapy Studio. Contact us Teen therapist San Diego services.
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