By Dr. Jan Hittelman
Q: After the summer break, what are some suggestions on transitioning my student from a more laid back summer schedule to a school routine and avoiding the chaos that comes with early weeks of school?
A: Much like the calendar year, the school year also has a certain seasonality or flow. We now find ourselves at the beginning of the cycle, which provides a unique opportunity to set the rhythm for a successful school year. By doing this with intentionality we can address both the transition back to school as well as the inevitable adjustments to a new year.
Here are some strategies to consider:
Introduce ritual to mark the transition: Create an opportunity to focus on and celebrate your children’s start in a new school year. Surprise them with a special meal; perhaps with their favorite foods and/or a special activity. Share your feelings of pride and excitement of the new adventure they are about to begin, as well as reflecting on the positive events of the past summer.
Provide an opportunity for them to share their positive and negative expectations:
Our children have a lot to say if given the opportunity to express it. Let your child know that you’re genuinely interested in knowing how they feel about the upcoming school year.
Normalize their concerns and offer your support: Help your child understand that it’s normal to have apprehensions at the beginning of a new school year. Consider sharing some of your own school experiences when you were their age. Let them know that you’re in their corner and will be there for them if/when challenges arise.
Check in with your child periodically throughout the school year: Instead of focusing only on the school projects, getting homework done, and being ready in the morning, encourage your child to share about their emotional experiences regarding school. Try to be less of a problem solver and more of a good listener.
Broaden your definition of “success”: Try to remember that a successful school year is much more about effort than grades. In addition, be sure to emphasize and celebrate personal, social, and emotional growth as well.
By planting these seeds early on you will increase the chances that your child will blossom throughout the upcoming seasons of this new school year.