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Dealing With Back To School Transition

With summer vacation coming to an end for many families with school age children its time to get ready to go back to school. The transition from carefree summer days to structured school days can be tough and takes some time getting used to. For many children it will be smooth, while for others it can be challenging.

The reality is that back to school transition affects both children and their parents. If our children do well, we tend to relax and share in the excitement and feelings of success.  If the transition is difficult, we generally worry, with some parents becoming preoccupied and feeling demoralized or angry. As parents, we all wish that our children’s school year is successful and positive all around. We want our children to be happy and well adjusted. No parent likes to see his or her child going to school feeling tired, anxious, angry or sad. To help ease the transition and promote a successful school experience, The Wellness Project has put together a list of tips and suggestions that can be useful

1. Follow a Sleep Schedule 

About a week before the first day of school, start your children’s bedtime routine earlier each night and wake them up earlier as well to match the upcoming school  routine. Not only is it important to institute bedtime and wake-up schedules, but it’s also essential that youngsters receive recommended amounts of sleep (Lack of sleep can negatively affect children’s physical and emotional health and their ability to learn).

Here is guideline for recommended sleep hours:

Age Recommend Amount of Sleep
Newborns 16-18 hours a day
Preschool-aged children 11-12 hours a day
School-aged children At least 10 hours a day
Teenagers 9-10 hours a day
Adults (including the elderly) 7-8 hours a day
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2. Involve Your Children in Shopping for School Supplies

When you engage kids in the planning stages of back to school it can make the transition easier. You can pick up things together, such as schoolbooks and supplies (stationery, school bag, water bottle uniforms, etc.,) and when possible let them choose. By selecting the items, it gives them a feeling of being in charge of their school things and encourages the mindset of back to school.

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3. Re-introduce Reading

While there are children who read in summer, you have lots of kids that take a mini-vacation from books all together! Try to find fun ways to read before school starts as it can help ease the transition back to academic life. For younger children you can read together (take turns) and for older children get them to read a chapter or two each day depending on their level and abilities. If they don’t want to read a novel, you can get them to read an excerpt from a reference book on a certain topic (they can also browse on line with you for a topic they want to know more about). Some publishers, like National Geographic, have great reference magazines with facts and cool stories that kids can also read up on during their spare time.

 4. Schedule Checkups

This is an ideal time to make sure your child is in good physical and mental health, so children and teens should have annual medical checkups (this can include an eye exam and dental checkups). You should also see if they are up to date with vaccines. If you have any specific concerns regarding your child’s physical or psychological development (more on this below – tip 10.) speak to your paediatrician or a specialist.

5. Turn off Electronic Devices

Start to limit (if not totally eliminate) screen time especially an hour before bedtime. The light that is emitted from screens (tablets, smart phones and other devices) can be stimulating and delays the onset of the sleepy hormone melatonin. This can result in children having difficulty sleeping right away. Use the time right before sleep to read, do puzzles, do a board game or play quietly.

6. Set After school Rules Together

Before school starts, sit down as a family and discuss the afterschool rules. You can go over the following: when and where homework should be done; the amount of time allowed for watching TV and playing on electronic games; and what school activities to do and how much of it can be juggled – such as music classes, art classes, sports or scouts.

7. Don’t Skip Breakfast

While mornings can be extremely hectic, it’s crucial – particularly for youngsters – that breakfast not be sacrificed due to the morning rush once school starts. Research has shown that breakfast is the most important meal in relation to academic achievement, children’s health, cognitive development and mental health. Also make sure they start having it early before school starts, as during summer breaks children often eat later breakfasts and they get used to this slower pace of having their first – and most important – meal. 

8. Create a System of Organization at Home

You can prepare a calendar in a communal area, such as the kitchen or TV lounge, that lists each family member’s appointments, activities, events, due dates and test dates. You can also help your child develop a personal organizational system to stay on top of assignments, tests and important dates. This can be put on a white board, a chalkboard, a day planner or a smart phone’s notes function.

9. Be up to Date with School Issues

Usually when school starts, as parents, we can get bombarded with information sent home by the school – either via paper memos or updates that are posted on-line. Try not to procrastinate reading them or put them away without even reading them. Immediately review all materials sent home by the school, as these often include important information about requirements, expectations and events. As a second step, make note of any important dates in your calendar so you don’t overlook them when the time comes. At the start of the semester, drop a note to your child’s teachers (or section supervisor), letting them know that you’re interested in receiving regular feedback regarding how your child is doing. Also be sure to attend back-to-school functions, PTA meetings or any of the meetings for parents to meet the teachers. Don’t shy away from addressing any concerns about your child to the teachers.

10. Assess Anxiety

While some students are excited to start a new school year, others dread it to the point of debilitating anxiety. The reasons can be very broad, ranging from separation anxiety to previous bullying to the existence of an undiagnosed mental health issue or due to specific learning difficulties. Parents concerned about their child’s mental health should first contact their child’s paediatrician to rule out any physical health conditions as a cause. Have a long talk with your child as well and, if you feel that you are not able to understand or resolve your child’s anxiety and there are no physical issues, the next step would likely be a referral to a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, and educational psychologist (who can asses any existing learning difficulties, such as dyslexia or ADHD), therapist or social worker.

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Overcoming First Day Jitter with Preschoolers

While the aforementioned tips can apply to a broad age range of school children, with preschoolers who are starting school for the very first time, the back to school experience can be different and even overwhelming (or surprisingly not at all!) on a whole different level. As parents we must first understand that most small children have no idea what to expect when entering preschool. They have spent the first few years learning the rules and routines of home life or kindergarten/day care, which differs from the new rules and routines they will encounter in a school setting. You may be surprised and your preschooler adjusts seamlessly with no hiccups! However, if the first few days are a little rough, try not to over react. Young children in particular may experience separation anxiety or shyness initially, but preschool teachers are trained to help them adjust. If you drop them off, try not to linger and be somewhere where children can still see you. Reassure them that you love them, will think of them during the day, and will be back. Most of the tips mentioned earlier apply to preschoolers too but with younger children, ranging 3 to 4 years, we suggest a few additional useful things that you can do as parents:

Help Your Child’s Teacher

Try to speak to your child’s teacher before school begins or after school (if you can arrange for a quick meeting). Tell the teacher about your child’s favorite toys/characters, coping mechanisms when your child is upset, and favorite things he/she likes to do.

Pack a Comfort Item

If your child’s preschool allows this, pack something from home that your child loves. It could be a beloved teddy, a small blanket or a bedtime story book that your child can hold onto and look at during the day. Comfort items can help reassure them during hard times. You could also give your child a personal belonging of yours, like a favorite scarf or a mitten, so they know you will come back to get it.

Arrange Play Dates

If possible arrange get-togethers with some of your child’s classmates before school starts. If you don’t have any contacts before school starts, speak to other mothers during the first weeks of school to arrange it. It will help your child re-establish positive social relationships with peers.


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Don’t Stress and Enjoy the Ride!

The degree of adjustment depends on the child, but parents can help their children (and the rest of the family) manage the increased pace of life by planning ahead, being realistic, and maintaining a positive attitude. Remember, most children are pretty resilient and, with your support and encouragement, will thrive throughout their school experience. Remember most of all, as parents, to also have fun and enjoy the experience (the transition and the school year ahead) along with your children! These are precious times with your children before they are all grown up and leave their nest!

P.S. Once the school year is back in full swing try finding ways to connect with kids when they get home from school. Check out this cool post from B-Inspired Mama:


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