Camp is winding down, summer days are gradually becoming shorter, nights cooler and kids are starting to talk about going back to school. There are typically mixed feelings around this time – sadness that the summer is ending, but excitement mixed with anxiety for the start of a new school year, new friends, and new opportunities. It’s so important to take these last few weeks to talk to your kids about their feelings. It always helps to have a plan as well – to help ease them back into the new school year.
1. Listen to your kids. Ask them how they are feeling about going back to school and listen to what they have to say. Nine times out of ten, they are probably experiencing feelings of excitement mixed with anxiety. This is normal. Validate their feelings and help them feel more comfortable by helping them find ways to manage them. Have them help come up with solutions to any problems that may be in the way. For a kindergartner, this may mean coming up with a game plan for the first day of school – do they want to try to take the bus with the neighbors or would they prefer you drive them? For your older kid, it might mean coming up with a solution for tackling their homework – do they need a new designated spot away from their siblings to concentrate more? This line of teaching helps kids learn self-efficacy, an empowering lesson they can apply during the school year and beyond.
2. Shift away from summer hours. Let’s face it, summer hours usually mean later nights and somewhat leisurely mornings. Take this time a few weeks before the first days of school, to get back on track. Start now by adjusting bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night until you are back to your normal bedtime routine. This will help your kids gradually ease their bodies back into their school sleep-wake schedule instead of a crash and burn scenario happening the first week of school.
3. Don’t underestimate the value of a friendship. One of the most popular concerns with kids going back to school is their uncertainty they will have any friends in their class. Ask their teacher for a list of kids in their class. Then set up a play date for a few of their new classmates to come over with their parents for a late summer BBQ. Even if it happens just once, it will be nice for your child to have a familiar face or two to recognize on the first day of class, and will help ease first-day jitters.
4. Be their cheerleader. During this time, we as parents need to focus on the positives – how much fun they will have in the first grade, now that they are a ‘big kid.’ Remind your child of their strengths and talents and all the great things they have to look forward to this school year. We also need to focus on the positives ourselves and try not to get caught up the end-of-summer blues, as that will surely rub off on our kids. Instead, savor these last few weeks of summer – try to get out of work a little early and squeeze in a few more family days at the pool.
5. Talk to your pediatrician. When you go to the doctor to get their back to school health forms, it’s also a good time to talk to them about any concerns your child may be having. Perhaps you are concerned with their allergies, boosting their immune system, or how to handle any anxiety that may come with the new school year, homework, tests, etc. It sometimes helps just to talk about it out loud with someone other than yourself, who also has the best interest of your kid in mind.