Summer is winding down and it will soon be back-to-school time. The summer freedoms afforded to school aged children of staying up late, watching cartoons all morning and enjoying snacks throughout the day will come to an end. Because most children enjoy a more flexible schedule during the summer, it can be quite the shock when it’s time to head back to school.
The school year means early mornings, limited time at home, extracurricular activities, homework, and more. How can you help your little one adjust to this abrupt change? Parents and caregivers should ideally ease children into a more back to school friendly schedule a week or two ahead of the first day back. How can you make that happen? Here are some ideas:
The first thing you’ll need to get your child used to is a new bedtime. To determine the best bedtime, determine what wake-up time will be first as in how much time does your child need in the morning before leaving for school? Then, work backwards. Your child should get 9-10 hours of sleep every night. So, depending on their age and sleep needs, you’ll come with an appropriate bedtime.
You don’t need to start the new bedtime all at once. Instead, consider moving your child’s bedtime a half hour earlier each night until you reach the correct bedtime. This will help ease the transition over time.
The obvious counterpart to a set bedtime is a wake-up time! Using a similar process, start implementing a wake-up time corresponding to the bedtimes already set up. For older children, you can encourage responsibility by asking them to set an alarm clock and using it to wake up every day.
Plan your routines ahead of time. What will your child be responsible each morning and night? Some tasks you may wish to assign include:
• Pick out clothes the night before
• Pack lunch and water bottle in the morning
• Make sure backpack is ready (morning or evening)
• Brush teeth (morning and evening)
• Clean up room before bed
• Eat breakfast
Make a list of morning and evening tasks for your child. For younger children, you can include images or pictures so that they know what each task involves. Once you’ve started implementing bedtimes and wake-up times, have your child practice the morning and evening routines a few days before school starts.
Instead of your regular summer activities, add some back-to-school tasks to the agenda. For the last few days of summer vacation, you can tackle shopping, prepare school supplies and more! Here are some additional suggestions for back-to-school tasks:
• Pack up summer clothes and get out school or fall clothes
• Create a homework space or re-decorate an already designated space
• Make school year goals together (with regards to grades, activities, reading, etc.)
• Create and decorate routine charts (lists of morning and evening tasks), then hang them up where your child can see them.
This will help your child shift their focus to think about school.
Parents, nannies and babysitters can all work together to implement the new routine a week or two before summer vacation ends. With their sleep schedule aligned, routines established and back-to-school-tasks taken care of, your child will be ready to succeed in the new school year!
“But I don’t want to go!” the child cries, desperately clinging to their mother. Any kindergarten teacher will tell you it’s not uncommon for there to be tears on the first day of school. Most of the time it’s the children, but parents can get emotional too!
Kindergarten is many children’s first school experience. It’s understandable that it’s an emotional time for both children and parents. But, it doesn’t have to be awful or scary. By preparing your child ahead of time, you can make sure that their first day isn’t overwhelmed with anxiety and fear. So, how do you prepare? Here are some proven methods:
A visit to the school to see where kindergarten is can do a lot to calm your child’s fears. The unknown is very scary! But, once your child sees the building and classroom, they’ll likely feel much more comfortable with the idea. Many schools allow kindergarteners to do a tour or visit their classroom ahead of time. Contact your school to find out if you can arrange a quick visit!
Use stuffed animals or dolls to act out what may happen at kindergarten. You can enjoy story time, games, making friends and more! Then role-play any difficult moments like what your child can do if they need help, feel sad or have trouble with a classmate. For example, you might have the teddy bear say “I’m feeling sad,” and ask your child what the teddy bear could do. If your child doesn’t come up with a solution, suggest that the teddy bear might talk to a classmate or tell the teacher.
Tell your child about your first day of school! You can also have family members or friends tell your child about their first day of school and what they experienced. By hearing stories, your child will gain confidence that making it through the first day of school is something everyone goes through.
Avoid saying “Oh, don’t worry, it will be fine,” as a way to brush off your child’s feelings. Instead, validate what they’re feeling and try to be empathetic. You might say, “I know it feels scary, but it will get easier,” or something similar. If you don’t acknowledge your child’s feelings, they may feel worse and all alone with their fears.
There are plenty of books out there that address the topic of the first day of kindergarten! Find them at the library or order a few of them so that you can read them together. These books can help open up discussions about what your child can expect at school and also help them talk through their fears.
When it’s finally time for the big day, do your best to show confidence and be positive. If your child sees you happy and confident about school, they’ll feel more secure. Remind your child that you’ll be there to pick them up later. If your child struggles, the teacher will likely suggest a way to separate or ask you to stay in the classroom for a few minutes. Be sure to follow her lead.
When implementing these strategies, you may wish to involve your child’s nanny or babysitter so that your child gets plenty of support in processing their fears and feelings. With support and love, your child will surely make it through the first few days of school without too much trouble.