“Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” A.A. Milne
The summer holidays are almost over and a new school year is looming. For children, returning to school can present an exciting feat of new beginnings in a new environment whilst creating life affirming moments. On the other hand, due to the sheer level of uncertainty of going back to school, some children may feel anxious or concerned about transitioning into new routines after the holidays.
So what can we do to help ease children back into school life?
Here are five tips to make the transition back to school as smooth as possible.
1. Emotional Regulation
A new school, new classroom, new teacher and possibly new classmates, can present a whole new set of unfamiliar territory all at once. Understandably, your child may experience a mixture of emotions as the holidays come to an end. It’s important to discuss how they are feeling in a reassuring and open way.
For some children, talking about their feelings can be quite tricky, and they may need support to express their emotions. To help your child, you can draw, colour or make a collage to represent their emotions. Then use their visual drawing/collage to validate their feelings by saying that it’s okay to feel happy, sad, nervous, excited, confused or worried about going back to school. Reiterate that because they are growing up, they are changing so their experiences at school will start to feel and be different and this is okay. Once the emotions have been identified, to help regulate any heightened emotions, use calming strategies like deep breathing; mindfulness; music; yoga and exercise; quietly counting to 10; or movement breaks.
2. Make time to Reflect
Talk to your child about the activities they took part in over the summer holidays. Ask what they enjoyed doing, what could have been better and why? This can by reviewing a holiday diary they may have made, having a general discussion or drawing pictures of their best moments. Involve any siblings where possible because it can be a wonderful social communication and listening activity.
By doing this, your child has the opportunity to process the length of time which has passed over the holidays, gets them to self-reflect and mentally prepares them to move on.
“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr
3. Arrange Playdates
Organise playdates with classmates or school peers during the holidays. Often children do not see familiar faces from school over the holidays and can feel overwhelmed by class dynamics and the different personalities when they return to school.
By arranging a couple of playdates with their school friends or short telephone/facetime/Skype conversations, it can help your child feel more at ease, and prepares them to re-enter the school community.
4. Reintroduce Routines
Gradually start to bring back school routines a few days before school starts, particularly morning wake up times, bedtimes, homework sessions and walking/driving to school. This helps your child get into the mindset that school will be starting soon.
For some children, it may be appropriate to create checklists or visual timetables of their morning and afternoon routines. This can be reassuring and visually satisfying for children, particularly if there are built in rewards/incentives upon completion of activities.
5. Make a Social Story
A social story is a set of short descriptions about a specific event or activity and is ideal for anxious children. By preparing a ‘Back to School’ social story, it visually informs your child about what to expect for the new school year. If you can, talk to the school before the holidays about how they communicated the transition with your child’s class, so you can use similar language in the social story.
Have fun with your child whilst making the social story. Gather photos or draw pictures of their new teacher, classroom, new school building and wider school community. Highlight the school start date and brief timings of the school day within the social story. Next, place these items into a book or onto a PowerPoint then write very simple descriptions about each visual e.g. “This is Miss Livingston, your new Class Teacher.” If making a social story triggers emotions, have the feelings chat as detailed in point 1 above, and use appropriate calming strategies.
“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.” Max DePree
Although going back to school can be fun and incredibly exciting to have a fresh start, this is not always the case for some children. However, returning to school after long breaks is an inevitable part of your child’s learning and development journey. By taking some of these practical and calming steps, I hope it helps build resilience and prepares your child for the new school year.
Miss H ♥