The beginning of a new school year can bring a up a mixture of feelings for kids and parents (and teachers too!). While many of us are sad to see the fun and freedom of summer fade, the anticipation of new learning and adventures with friends can bring feelings of excitement and joy. At this time of year, parents often have a lot of questions about how to set children up for success in the new school year. There might be anxiety about a new school or classroom, a change in sleep patterns, which can make anyone a little grumpy, and worries about how they will handle new topics. For parents facing these thoughts, first remember that you are not alone! Next, explore these tips and resources to help you and your child start the year as smoothly as possible.
Settle Back into Routines Gradually
Often during the summer our schedules and routines become more relaxed. Longer days can mean more evenings spent outdoors, and we may be more likely to let our kids stay up late. When it comes to the more structured days of the school year, however, sleep needs to be a top priority. That’s because the proper amount of sleep is particularly important for a growing child. Studies show that if you haven’t slept well your ability to learn could drop up to 40%.
Help your child transition by easing back into school year bedtime routines. Starting a week or two before school is back in session, make bedtime earlier every few days until falling asleep and waking up isn’t as much of a struggle.
Ease anxiety about a new classroom and teacher
Change can cause anxiety for anyone. While your child may be excited to see their friends in class each day, they may also be a bit anxious about their new classroom or teacher. Anxiety can affect a child’s ability to sleep or focus on tasks, so finding ways to ease it is beneficial to all.
If you are able to, set up a time to visit your child’s school and walk past their new classroom, so they know exactly where they are headed on the first day back. (Be sure to check with your school for specific visitation rules and summer hours.) If your child is anxious about their new teacher, sitting together and writing a letter to their teacher may help. Have your child highlight their skills, their favorite part of school, and perhaps their favorite subject. This is a great way to start of the year on a thoughtful foot.
Schedule fun family time
Often children struggle with the loss of free time that the start of a school year brings. They may also be missing the opportunity to spend more time with you!
Scheduling family fun in the days leading up to school, and after school has started, can be very helpful. Plan a game night, a walk around your neighborhood together, or, one of our favorites, a tradition of reading a book together before bed each night. Create a family fun calendar and display it in a place in your home that your child will pass by it regularly. This can help reassure your child that fun family time isn’t coming to an end with summer.
Start limiting screen time
Too much screen time can be one of the hardest habits for kids and adults to break, but it can interfere with schoolwork and negatively affect mental health.
Why not unplug together? Create a device station in your home where everyone can put their devices to charge. Consider having your child decorate the space! They could make it look like a parking lot, an airplane hangar, or maybe a small house. Let your child’s imagination lead the way. Making the space fun and interesting can make leaving devices there easier and keep your child from feeling like something is being taken away from them.
Hide a note in their backpack or lunch box
The first day of school can be scary and exciting all at once.
Leaving a small note in your child’s backpack or lunch for them to find can make them feel special and ease any nerves. A fun way to add a secret message that will appear throughout the day is to leave your child a banana message. Simply use a skewer or toothpick to carefully pen your message on the banana peel. As the peel oxidizes your message will appear.
We hope that these tips make the transition to a new school year easy and fun!