Yes, it’s that time again! It’s time to prepare for getting back into a school routine.
Remember, experiencing predictable patterns gives children security in their environment. When they know what to expect, it reduces the likelihood that kids will experience anxiety or stress.
Here are a couple quick reminders to help make the back-to-school transition easier for you and your family:
1. Early to bed, early to rise: If your child has enjoyed a vacation of later-than-normal bedtimes and lazy mornings, getting them up for school on the first day can be difficult. Help make this transition easier by starting their school-year sleep routine about two weeks in advance. Each morning/night, set an incrementally earlier bedtime and wake-up time.
2. Limit television, video games, and other electronic distractions before bedtime:
TV, computers and even cell phones emit bright light, which stimulates the brain. Shutting down electronics before bedtime (1-2 hours before) and keeping them out of the bedroom can promote a more calming and restful sleep. If your child is having difficulty falling asleep, calming activities such as reading a book or taking a warm bath can help them to wind down.
3. Get organized: Use a wall calendar or personal planner to record when assignments are due, tests will be given, extracurricular practices, etc. Write down any important need-to-know information or details such as their locker combination, what time classes and lunch start and end, their homeroom and classroom numbers, teachers’ and/or bus drivers’ names, etc. This can also help alleviate any anxiety they may be experiencing about the new school year.
4. Nurture independence: Talking ahead of time about responsibilities they are old enough to take on can help promote self-confidence and independence, especially when they are expected to manage more on their own at school. This might include packing a lunch or picking out their clothes the night before, creating a morning checklist, organizing school materials, etc.
5. Homework and study habits: Make homework part of your child’s everyday routine. Establish a consistent time and a place for studying at home, with minimal distractions. Plan to make yourself available during homework time as much as possible, especially with younger kids. You might be cooking dinner or reading the paper, but be around to check in on your child’s progress.
6. Validation: Let your child know that their nervous or apprehensive feelings about the start of school are normal. All kids (and adults!) have a hard time getting back into the routine of the school year. The knowledge that they are not alone in this experience will help your child feel that they are being heard and understood. Help your child connect with friends, take a tour of the school, and anticipate the positives before the first day, in order to provide them with an added sense of security and the skills needed to help manage some of these feelings.
Although it’s normal to be anxious in any new situation, some kids may develop more intense levels of anxiety and real physical symptoms, such stomachaches or headaches, associated with the start of school. If you are concerned that your child’s worries go beyond the normal back-to-school jitters, please call or email us so that we can help!
-Erminia Donatiello, LPC
Erminia Donatiello, LPC is a licensed psychotherapist at Well Being Therapy Center.