The freedom summer offers to children can feel like a prison to parents, who may spend the summer on an endless search for child care and activities that can stave off boredom-related whining. Many parents find themselves quietly rejoicing when it’s time for their children to go back to school, but settling back into the hustle and bustle of school can be stressful for parents and children alike. For children, summer can feel far too short, leading to anxiety, moodiness, and feelings of grief when it’s time to go back to school. You don’t have to put up with a month of tantrums and exhaustion as your child settles back into his or her school routine, though. Instead, try making the transition a gradual one.
The transition back to a school routine can be jarring and frustrating to many kids, so it’s best to take the transition slowly. Try adding a new element — such as a slightly earlier bedtime or a regular family dinner time — every day to give you time to adjust. Prioritize adequate sleep. Kids who don’t get enough sleep have to face the day exhausted, and this can amplify the stress and anxiety of going back to school while also adversely affecting academic performance.
Summer All Year Long
Both kids and parents sometimes feel sad about the end of summer fun and the return to seemingly endless work. It’s tough for homework and classes to compete with vacations and pool time, but a return to school doesn’t mean you have to give up fun. Try incorporating a little bit of summer into each day. While it’s still warm out, take your kids to the pool or a water park after school. As fall sets in, try having a family ice cream night, planning a winter vacation, or scheduling a fun family event every week. When kids see that school doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on fun, they’re less likely to be miserable.
Organization can be a lifesaver for both you and your child during the return to school. Try making a week’s worth of family meals and freezing them at the beginning of the week, or packing all of your child’s school lunches on one day. This can free you up to do more engaging family activities. Make sure your child has his or her own work space, and ensure he/she gets all the supplies needed for school. A missing book or the wrong pens can be major sources of stress for a kid, so keep a well-stocked desk ready for your child. Plan a nightly homework time during which you and your child work on projects. This helps your child get into the habit of good time management, and gives you some quiet time to work on your own pursuits.
Going back to school can be tough, especially for younger kids who may experience separation anxiety. Don’t forget to provide your child with direct reassurance. Ask him or her about any concerns at school, and offer advice when he or she requests it. If your child is struggling with a bully, has trouble interacting with a teacher, or is falling behind in a class, don’t hesitate to intervene. The daily struggles of school life might seem trivial to an adult who has been out of school for years, but for a child, school can be everything. When school goes poorly, life feels awful, so take your child’s concerns seriously.