Going back to school is stressful for children of all ages, but parents can head off this stress before school even starts by being ambassadors of this transition. Maintain a positive attitude about summer ending. If parents become nervous about school starting then your child is certainly going to be nervous as well. Anxiety from enrolling in a new school or even returning for another school year can be counterproductive to a child’s academic life.
For parents with children attending school for the first time:
- Describe what will happen on the first day: Keep in mind that a child starting school for the first time or going to a new school may have a hard time imagining what it will be like. As parents we have already been through this process. Talking about and providing them with the basic sequence of the day will help your child make a mental movie of what to expect. Children form pictures in their minds, and reviewing the process in detail will make things more familiar and less scary on the first day of school. Take some time to role play aspects of the day as they occur within your regular day, i.e. recess, work-time, snack, lunch, or dismissal bell.
- Ask your child compelling questions: Specific questions will help your child imagine what school will be like and help you talk about all the fun stuff. Create hype by asking questions like, “What do you think will be the most fun part about school?” or “How many friends do you think you will make and play with?”
- Practice going to school: Make a dry run to help your child get familiar with the route and the routines to come. Point out interesting sights or places familiar to your child along the way and even visit the outside of their new school so your child can get an understanding of the environment. Take a photo of the school to connect your child to the upcoming transition.
- Parks & play dates: If your child is going to a new school, spend some time at the neighbourhood parks and help teach them how to make friends. Ask what grade they are going into and if they are going to the same school. Schedule some play dates with some of these children so they have time to get to know each other.
- Plan goodbyes ahead: Think about what your child needs in a goodbye. What will be most helpful; a quick goodbye or five minutes of cuddle time with you.
For parents with children attending school again:
- Set a bedtime routine: When your children are used to running around outside or staying up late each night, shifting to the early morning school rush can be a real shock to the system. To ease the transition, about a week before the first day of school start their bedtime routine about 10 minutes earlier each night and wake them up 5-10 minutes earlier each morning every day until they’re back on track. Parents, don’t forget to readjust your bedtime schedules too!
- Give children some control: Offering simple choices and allowing your child to be a part of school preparations may help calm nerves and get them excited. For example, allow them to pick out a new backpack or lunchbox. If you shop for school supplies, let your child find the items in the store and check them off on your list. The day before school starts let your child choose their clothes or uniform for the first day.
Whether it’s your child’s first time going to school or simply returning, we hope these tips help. Good luck!