It’s that time of the year when we switch from our lazy summer days to routine, school and homework. It’s usually a switch that can cause some stress for both you and your child. But, with a little bit of preparation and the right attitude, it doesn’t have to be so difficult.
Having a little anxiety about going back to school is normal. Our children are facing a lot of newness, including new teachers, classmates and lots of academic challenges. The anticipation of the new school year may cause sleepless nights for some kids. I know my child has a lot of anxiety right before the first day of school. She is often sick to her stomach and unable to sleep. As much as my heart breaks for her, I have to put on a strong front and say “I know you can do it. Change is difficult but I know once you get to school you will feel better. You’re going to have a great day and make lots of new friends!’”
I think our attitude has a strong influence on how our children view the beginning of school. They pick up on our feelings, react to them, and often magnify them. You have to have faith that they’ll be able to get through the changes, even if it’s hard. Let them know that everyone feels a little nervous going into the classroom. Maybe share some stories about how you were nervous but by the end of the day you made a new friend and felt great about seeing some old ones. I tell my daughter that somewhere in her class is a child who is waiting to be her friend. It helps set a positive expectation about the school year, and it helps her notice and be ready to respond to friendly overtures.
Here are some ways I prepare my child for the start of school.
1) Create Routines
I establish a daily routines at home at the start of the school year to help her adjust. I create a checklist to help my child get organized and stay on schedule. I think it helps ease anxiety with rushing to get out the door. I plan on having a laminated checklist that hangs on the refrigerator and reads Make your bed. Eat breakfast. Get dressed. Brush teeth. Get backpack. She will check off each item before she heads out the door. This will help her feel in charge and make her feel that getting ready is her responsibility. For the afternoon, I plan on scheduling a routine for homework, snacks, and extracurricular activities. My sister has a great idea of always having my child help create the schedule as a way to get her to buy into it.
2) Establish Fun Traditions
If your excited for school to begin, your kids will follow your lead. Maybe do something fun every year that can help ring in the new school year and it can become your family tradition. My daughter likes to dine at a fancy restaurant the night before the first day of school. We sit around and talk about what she looks forward to and what her concerns are for the upcoming year. We also always take a picture of her with her new backpack at the front steps before she heads out on her first day. The whole backpack buying is also a big deal for her. I make sure she picks something she loves and we prepare all her school supplies and label things together.
Once school starts, I try to follow my child’s lead. She tends to keep a lot of things to herself and doesn’t like me to question her too much. Of course, I want to know every detail of her day but I don’t push her. I let her relax and then talk later. Sometimes she tells me bits and pieces of her day. Sometimes she doesn’t share much at all. Either way, it’s fine, as long as she seems calm and somewhat happy, I assume the start of the school is going well.
One of the most precious gifts we can give our children is our confidence that they will find their way. And they will.
I hope your children have a great start to their school year!