For many parents, summer is the time to relax the rules and put bedtimes on hold. But then August rolls around, and parents start to panic. “School is only two weeks away!” There are classes to confirm, backpacks to fill, jeans to buy and lunches to plan, all while preparing our kids mentally and emotionally for a new school year.
To help make this a successful transition – meaning less anxiety for kids AND caregivers – here are a few tips to start using now. Don’t worry, you can still enjoy summer to the fullest! These are just simple ways to make the back-to- school changeover easier on everyone. So when those school ads hit, the whole family will be ready. Or at least ready-ish.
Make casual conversation.
Many kids are in blissful oblivion when it comes to summer. School is in a whole other universe! Instead of letting it take them completely by surprise, start weaving school into the mix. See a fun shirt at the store? Say, “That would be great for school!” Start gathering up potential school supplies around the house. Designate a homework zone at home and let your child decorate. Remember to be positive! Instead of focusing on summer “ending” (summer lasts a long time in Arkansas!), remind kids that you will still be doing fun outdoor things even after school starts. Point out the things your child enjoys about school: cool supplies, seeing friends every day, a new class, great teachers, etc.
Adjust their schedule – slowly.
Now is the time to gradually start waking kids up earlier. Just 10 minutes earlier every few days will ease the shock of the early mornings to come. That means earlier bedtimes, too. For older kids, tweens and teens, a set “bedtime” is probably long gone. But you can still introduce calm, relaxing evenings to encourage winding down earlier and earlier. Maybe it’s snuggling up with a family movie, or encouraging everyone to read in the evenings. Phones, tablets, computers and TVs can keep kids up late into the night, so now is a good time to discuss (and perhaps easing into) guidelines for late-night tech.
Tour the school and new classroom.
A great way to help re-familiarize your child to the school environment is by scheduling a time to stop by the school or even the new classroom. This is especially important for children entering kindergarten, kids transitioning to a new building or to a new district. Certainly, in this age of technology, even getting on a school-sponsored Facebook page and arranging a play date for kids of the same grade/class can be a way for kids to make friends and have a familiar face on the first day of class.
Plan one-on-one time.
Schedules are hectic, and just carting kids from point A to point B can be a challenge. But planning intentional time can go a long way toward easing stress and slowing down – and it doesn’t take long to make the connection! Set aside 15 minutes for each child, every day. Read a book to your younger child. Take a walk or go for a drive. Shoot some hoops. Prep ingredients for dinner. Building in quality time is a great anchor for kids AND parents, and forces us to slow down and focus on the good stuff. Keep it up after school starts for healthier, happier kids all year long.
Amanda Owens is a licensed clinical social worker with Methodist Family
Health. Methodist Family Health’s emotional and behavioral healthcare
services are designed to help children, adolescents and their families. Methodist
Family Health offers inpatient psychiatric hospitalization for children ages 3 to 17;
outpatient counseling clinics; grief counseling services; psychiatric residential
treatment centers and more. For more information, visit MethodistFamily.org.