Back-to-School Transition Tips

Transitioning from summer to school can be difficult for children after a summer of little structure and days filled of fun. According to the American Psychology Association, 83 percent of grade-school students admit to being stressed throughout the school year. Although this can be attributed to a number of factors, the abrupt shift from a summer routine back to a more structured school schedule often plays a role in this stress.

Help create a smooth transition and prevent symptoms of stress by considering some of these helpful tips.

  • Be Prepared: Ensuring students have everything they need ahead of the school year can help avoid last-minute stress. Throughout the summer, mark the calendar with days that can be dedicated to back-to-school shopping, from supplies to clothing. Another great tactic in preparing for the school year is to brainstorm healthy and easy-to-make meals that can be used during the week.
  • Develop a Schedule: Experts recommend school-age children sleep for nine to 11 hours each night. Since this rule is rarely followed during summer, parents should adjust bedtime by 10 minutes each day starting two weeks before the first day of school. To make this change easier, create a relaxing routine for morning and night that the whole family can follow, such as morning meditation or bedtime yoga.
  • Change is OK: Sitting down as a family to discuss change can help address any fears or hesitations a child may have about the upcoming school year. While it is normal to be anxious in unfamiliar settings, children should never feel the change is entirely negative. Sharing a personal experience with a transition and emphasizing the positive outcomes can be a great conversation-starter.
  • Visit the Classroom: Kids tend to be less anxious when they are in familiar territory. Take time during summer to schedule a visit to the school and show children around. Point out important locations including: the bus stop, building entrances, bathrooms and lockers. Once the school year begins, he/she may feel less intimidated knowing their way around the school.
  • Arrange Play Dates: For young children, transitioning into a new school year can be overwhelming for the simple fact that they are away from parents and family. Before or during the school year, schedule play dates with classmates to create a circle of familiar faces the child will feel comfortable around at school.
  • Something To Look Forward To: Kids who have something positive to look forward to will focus on feelings of excitement rather than anxiety or nervousness. Create a fun, afternoon tradition that the family can do together every day after school. This could mean walking the dog, having a movie night or making dinner together.
  • Avoid Additional Stress: Approximately 60 percent of teenagers say balancing activities is a significant source of stress. If a child plays sports, is involved in clubs or participates in other after-school activities, consider scaling back on these for the first couple weeks. Once the child has adjusted to the demands of their new schedule, discuss introducing activities back into the agenda.
  • Check-In Regularly: Transitioning into a new school year goes beyond the first day. Check-in by asking children regularly about academic and social progress. During these conversations, be attentive for signs of stress, angst and/or fatigue.

About the Author: Dr. Kristyn Gregory, DO, is a physician consultant and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan provider. 

Photo Credit: Ty Hatch, via Flickr

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