Bright sunny August days and warm nights are for beach and pool play, summer trips, and sports camps, barbecues and ice cream cones, and late night bonfires and fireworks. It’s also the time when we suddenly realize that it’s only a few short weeks before school begins again. And whether your child is 5 or 15, it’s hard for all ages to transition from the freedom of a relaxed summer schedule to waking up early, spending time in the classroom, and doing homework.
But with a little bit of planning, you can make it easier on your kids – and yourself. Here are some things you can do right now to ease back into school with minimal pain:
1. Get a head start on school-work, said Kate Cassada, EdD, assistant professor of education at the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. “Look for school-provided summer notices – reading lists, math websites or suggestions, early assignments that will be due. Schools usually have rich resources that busy parents may overlook,” she suggested.
And if your child struggled with any specific content last year, she added, have him or her review that work to keep it fresh and current.
2. Begin an organization system. Organizational tools, including binders, calendars, and assignment trackers are essential for success, said Dr. Cassada. But each child’s preference may differ, depending upon their strengths and capabilities, said Eileen Kennedy Moore, psychologist and author of Growing Friendships: A Kid’s Guide to Making and Keeping Friends. For handling papers, for example, “it may help to have a plastic folder that matches the book cover for each subject, or your child may want to use an accordion file with a section for each subject. Some kids may prefer to have functional files, so they can sort papers into “bring it to school,” “do it at home,” and “file for later,” she explained.
3. Have a discussion about homework, where, and when to do it, advised Dr. Kennedy Moore. “Most kids work best in the silence of their rooms, but some kids work better with an adult around so they can ask questions and make sure they stay on task. Many kids want to relax after school, but homework is easier when kids aren’t exhausted, so find a compromise about when to begin homework,” she said. “You’ll have fewer arguments if you do the same thing every day, and your child knows what to expect.”
4. Start a back to school sleep schedule. Have kids start going to bed and getting up at times as close to their school year schedule as possible. “Sleep is foundational for our cognitive and emotional health,” said Tim Bono, assistant dean for assessment and analytics and a lecturer in psychological and brain sciences in Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.
5. Talk about friends. Even if your child has an established group of friends, friendships shift, and it’s worth a discussion about how to seek new friends and what the important qualities of friendship are, said Dr. Kennedy Moore. “Friendships matter a lot for kids of all ages, but they become increasingly important in middle school and beyond. Friends aren’t just fun; they’re also a source of support, part of children’s identity, and even a source of protection,” she explained. “Kids with friends are less likely to get bullied.”
6. Address anxieties. Many children feel anxious about starting a new school year, and it’s worth addressing those concerns, said Dr. Cassada. This talk might start with questions about both what she or he is looking forward to and any worries that might be there. It’s good to express your confidence in your child’s ability to manage the transition from one grade to another by reminding him or her that she successfully managed it in previous years, added Dr. Kennedy Moore.
By Linda Hepler, BSN, RN