Posted by Laura Perillo
September is here and it’s hard to believe that means the first day of school is quickly approaching. Many of us are trying to soak in these last hot and hazy days of summer, while at the same time, laser-focused on getting everything done on time for our children so they’re well-prepared for the start of the 2021-22 school year.
This fall will potentially be more stressful than ever as the ongoing pandemic and COVID fatigue is certain follow our children down the hall for the third-consecutive school year. While our children’s experience this fall will be amplified with anticipatory angst for the start of the new school year, remember that parents can play an influential role in helping them cope.
There are several tips families can follow to help children combat their butterflies and encourage a positive back-to-school transition helping to reduce anxiety.
While this tip may seem like a no-brainer, it’s so important. Families are so busy they often forget to carve out a simple family discussion. Talking with your children about any change – in this case, the first day of school – is important, not only for young children but also for older children. As parents we can discuss their schedules, after-school activities, how they will get to and from school each day, and the expectation of homework and appropriate bedtimes.
Discussing the start of school with your children is a vital starting point before the first day of school. However, parents can expand this discussion by helping their child write down their to-do lists and schedules. Experts agree that by hanging up your child’s schedule in a commonplace in your home, it will help them prepare, visualize and help them plan their days.
For children who may be starting a brand-new school, use your time in the summer to do a test drive to their new school. Show your child the route, where they will get out of the car each morning, or the spot the bus will drop them off. Show your child the path or walking route to their new school or the point where they can meet up with a friend.
Routines are so important for all families of all ages – not just children. In fact, a 2018 survey commissioned by LinkedIn found that 80 percent of working American adults experience the “Sunday scaries,” where they worry about the upcoming workweek on Sundays. If we worry this much, just think about our children. Parents should help children set up and stick with a Sunday night/night before the first day of school routine. Help children pack up their lunches and backpacks, choose clothes for the next day, establish regular, quiet nighttime routines, and especially set early ground rules of when to shut off devices for a good night’s sleep.
Reassure your child that it’s natural to be nervous about the beginning of the new school year. This year might be challenging as many school districts transition back into a full school day from remote or half-days due to COVID restrictions. Many children will not only be adjusting to new classes, teachers and schedules, but will also be readjusting to a full day of school. Parents and caregivers should remember that children often take their emotional cues from the key adults in their lives and to try to manage your own emotions well by staying calm, speaking kindly and reassuring.
Chances are before school starts your child’s school will send out information about what to expect during the upcoming school year. Especially during our second September with COVID lurking, there may be new rules set forth by your child’s school. It’s so important to be honest with your child about school expectations. Mandatory masking? Tell your child about it ASAP. Also, many schools now have mental health services in place for the upcoming school year. Talk to your school and find out what plans they have in place.
While the anticipatory angst this fall will again be compounded by the ongoing pandemic, families can follow the mentioned helpful tips for a smoother transition process to ease into the new school year. Removing COVID from the equation, heading back-to-school after a long summer break is always a bit daunting. However, once children and families get those first day jitters out of the way, falling into a new schedule becomes much more enjoyable, seamless, and fun.
Happy new school year everyone!