Going back to school means getting into a new schedule and routine. Although your child may have attended summer camp or kept busy over the summer, starting the school year can be tough. Even if your child has attended school before, she may be anxious about starting the new school year because it may mean being in a new building, having new teachers, or making new friends. However, if you take some steps to prepare yourself and your child for this new experience, you can ease some of the anxiety and get the school year off to a great start!
Start talking early. Begin reminding your child that school is starting a few weeks before it actually does. Try to assess his emotions. These can range from concern to excitement to disappointment that summer vacation is ending. Let your child know that it is ok for him to be nervous. Try to get him excited by going shopping for school supplies. If possible, try to visit your child’s class before the first day, and meet the teacher. This will help him become familiar with his surroundings and it will also give him the opportunity to ask questions and express any fears so you can talk about them before the first day. If your child will no longer be with the same group of friends, see if you can get the names of a few children in his class and set up play dates beforehand.
Get bedtime back on schedule. A week or two before school begins, start adjusting your child’s bedtime to what it will be on school nights. There is no right bedtime for any specific age group of children because each child's routine, metabolism, and need for sleep is different. A normal range of bedtimes for 7-12 year olds is about 7:30-10PM, and children of this age usually need about 10-11 hours of sleep a day. However, some children need to nap, and so may go to sleep later and still wake up in time for school.
Plan out a school day routine. Have your child wake at the appropriate time for school in the morning, and do the things she will do on school days such as get dressed, have breakfast, and put her lunch in her backpack. If your child will be taking lunch or snack, involve her in planning and packing these. Make sure that any containers and packages are user-friendly. Go over the route to school, whether it involves going to the bus stop, taking public transportation, or driving.
Adjust to the academics. Even if your child is in a lower grade and will not have homework, he will still need to be prepared to learn. Try to refresh his memory and go over some of the things he learned during the previous school year. With younger children, set aside some time every day for the few weeks leading up to school to read with him, practice writing his name, or even coloring. With older children, have them practice homework time by setting aside time for them to read every day in the weeks leading up to school, and talk to him about what he has read.
Give it time. The first few weeks of the school year can be an adjustment for everyone. As prepared as you and your child are, there may be ups and downs as you both get used to the routine and develop a new schedule for homework and other activities. Be sure to check in with your child’s teacher to see how things are going.
Reprinted with the permission of the One Tough Job campaign. © Children's Trust Fund of Massachusetts 2007. All rights reserved.