Back-to-school is the biggest transition of the year, and it takes a few weeks to feel comfortable in this new routine. September takes a toll on our kids physically, mentally and emotionally. I’ve been guiding young children and their families into a new school year for 30 years now. I know a few tricks for easing into a fall routine. And I know that, heading into week two of school, your child will need these things:
THEY NEED TIME Your child is tired! They are taking in so much during the day— new rules, new schedules, the teaching style of a new teacher. It takes a lot of brainpower, and it’s exhausting! Think back to when you were training for a new job or learning how to drive. Those first few experiences are mentally draining. Support your child during back to school transition by allowing them a good chunk of unscheduled time.
If it’s possible, hold off on signing up for weekday extra curricular classes, (as well as after-school play dates) for two weeks. This will give your child a chance to get comfortable with their new surroundings before being expected to take on another set of rules and routines.
They may need down time from talking as well. I know you’re dying to hear about their day, but if they need a break to mentally take in the day, try to save the questions for later in the evening. It’s awesome if your schedule allows for your child to take off their shoes, plop on the couch and decompress when their school day is done.
THEY NEED CHOICE At school there’s a new routine and not a lot of choice. Your child is told when to have lunch, go outside, read, think mathematically or be creative. Allowing your child to call some of the shots when they get home (maybe what and when they have a snack, what they want to play…) allows them to get some control and choice back in their day (and maybe burn off some built-up frustration from not having much choice). This freedom to choose will allow your child to build up their self-regulation reserves so that when they get back to class tomorrow, they can be attentive.
THEY NEED FOOD Your child is taking in a new routine and this may temporarily throw off their appetite during school hours. If you are noticing that your child is extra moody, or short tempered after school, they may be really hungry. Support this transition time with some after school comfort food. But before you start easing up on what you pack for lunch, be warned that as soon as your child feels comfortable in class, they will start eating their regular amount again.
THEY NEED TISSUE BOXES! Give your kids the materials they need for the next day. There is nothing worse for a child than having to start a day telling their new teacher they don’t have what they’ve been asked to bring. So, whether it’s a family photo, a fall leaf or a box of tissues- send it with your child on the day it’s due. You are not only supporting them, you are setting up strong organizational skills and sending the message that school is important.
THEY NEED SLEEP It’s not easy getting used to a new routine of going to bed (and waking up!) early. Wind things down in your house a half hour before their new fall bedtime. (NO homework- this can re-fire their brain, set off nerves, and wreck their sleep) and have them go to bed at this earlier time, even if they aren’t sleeping right away.
THEY NEED A GOOD STORY Just before you shut the lights out, let them choose a story- a favorite, a funny one. Let your child read (or be read to) for pleasure and enjoyment. This is not the time for a must-sound-out literacy lesson, this is story time at it’s finest. You will establish a lifelong love of reading AND set your child up for a good night’s sleep if you establish an enjoyable story time just before bed.
It takes time! Give these tips a try and give your family two weeks. Soon everyone will make it through school transition.