Helping your child transition back to school

As the school bells chime once again, returning to school can be both an exciting and challenging time for children and parents alike. Whether your child is starting a new school, adjusting to a new schedule, or displaying reluctance to return to the classroom, there are a few ways you can support your child and help them navigate the transition more smoothly.

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Starting a new school year – Nurturing a sense of familiarity

While many children look forward to starting a new school, others face the beginning of the school year with anxiety and apprehension. To ease this transition, you can:

  • Minimize the fear of the unknown by creating a level of familiarity with the new school setting. If possible, visit the new school together with your child. Exploring the campus and meeting other classmates can alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with being in a new situation.
  • Use creative anticipation to help your child imagine their first day of school as a success. Encourage your child to share their feelings, fears, and excitement about the upcoming change. This can help them to see the positive possibilities that await them.

Adjusting to a new Schedule – Prioritize routine and flexibility

For most students, summer is a time of relaxed schedules punctuated by spontaneity and flexibility. Going back to the rigid schedule of the school year can be a difficult adjustment.

Here are some steps you can take in order to help your child adjust to a new schedule:

  • Sit down with your child and talk about what their school day will look like. Discuss topics such as what time school starts and ends and what time they will need to be ready to leave the house. Don’t forget to talk about the time they will have to relax, eat meals, complete homework, and participate in extracurricular activities.
  • Create a visual schedule that includes school hours, extracurricular activities, study time, playtime, and relaxation. This will help your child anticipate their day and manage expectations.
  • Once you have written out a schedule for the upcoming school year, post it somewhere where your child will be able to see it several times a day so it becomes familiar.
  • Slowly begin to segue from the current summer schedule to the school year routine, and be prepared to adjust your schedule accordingly. Children might need some time to adapt to their new routines, so stay patient and provide gentle guidance.

The anticipation of a new schedule after a period of a relaxed, less exhausting routine can be a source of stress or confusion. Establishing a consistent routine at home before it becomes mandatory can begin the process of change without pressure.

Reluctance to return – Cultivating positive associations with school

For some children, the idea of returning to school might be met with resistance. This could be due to various reasons, such as social anxiety, academic pressures, or a preference for being in the comfort of their home. Creating positive associations with school can help address concerns your child may have. This can be done through sharing stories about friends, and talking about activities or classes the child has enjoyed in the past. Focus on the positive.

You can also involve your child in preparing for school. Let them choose their school supplies or pick out their outfit for the first day. This gives them a sense of ownership and control which can help alleviate reluctance and build excitement.

More than school supplies: Equipping your child with the tools to handle change

Transition periods can amplify feelings of stress and uncertainty. As parents, your active listening and emotional support are vital. Encourage your child to express their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Acknowledge their emotions and offer reassurance. Sometimes, just knowing that their feelings are valid can be incredibly comforting.

Here are some ways you can be emotionally present for your child:

  • Teach your child coping strategies to manage stress and anxiety. Deep breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, or simple moments of relaxation can be powerful tools.
  • Transitions offer valuable opportunities for growth and resilience-building. Encourage your child to view challenges as stepping stones toward becoming stronger. Share stories of your own experiences with change and how you overcame obstacles. This not only fosters connection but also helps your child realize that they’re not alone in their journey.
  • Celebrate even the most minor victories. Whether it’s making a new friend, completing a challenging assignment, or simply showing up at school with a positive attitude – each achievement contributes to your child’s confidence and self-esteem.

With the right support, your child can return to school with confidence and enthusiasm

The back-to-school transition can be a period of adjustment for both parents and children. It often requires patience, understanding, and creativity. By fostering open communication, nurturing routines, cultivating positive associations, and developing coping strategies, you can create a supportive environment that empowers your child to thrive in the new school year.

Every child is unique and handles change differently. Stay attuned to their needs and emotions, and be prepared to support them accordingly.

Reach out today

If you need help or are concerned that your child is struggling with more than the usual back-to-school challenges, please reach out to us today. In-person therapy is available in Raleigh or online for all residents of North Carolina.