As our summer school holidays come to a close in our land ‘downunder’ it is time for parents to start preparing yourself and your child for a smooth transition into the new school year.
Letting go of the holiday vibe
It is hard to let go of the summer. Longer days, less routine, easy meals, family film nights, games, visiting friends, perhaps even travelling to see family or for a family holiday by the beach or camping in the bush.
However you have spent the summer, you and your little ones will now need to start looking at getting back into routine.
Easier for some
Some children will be more than ready to go back to some structure or to catch up with friends they haven’t seen for a while.
Others will resist. They may not like yet another transition or perhaps they are a bit anxious about venturing out of the home again and facing the world without you, especially following such chaotic year that was 2020.
All behaviours and emotions are normal
Whatever behaviours your child exhibits, they are normal. It is up to us as parents to help keep all behaviour in perspective and provide a calm and compassionate environment for our little ones to feel free to express their concerns. No feeling or emotion is wrong.
Remember too, that 2020 brought a lot of changes for us all. Schools, teachers and families pivoted in so many ways last year. We need to remember the things we valued during that time, and the challenges we managed to get through together.
Working together is still a key element as we head into a ‘CoVid-normal’ 2021. It is important not to have any preconceived ideas of what things will be like. There will still be some restrictions your school will need to implement, and so as parents, we need to work with them to keep our families and our communities safe.
Six keys to a smoother transition
There are a couple of keys to helping this transition to a new school year be as smooth as possible:
Ensuring you all get enough sleep to manage the physical and emotional demands of a school day is essential. Families may be out of bedtime routines during the holidays, so use these last few days before school goes back to get back into swing of regular, early bedtimes. Remember the success of every day, starts the night before.
2. Morning routines
It is a good idea to get into the habit of rising at the time you will need to once school returns. Make some plans to get out of the house at the same time you need to go to school. Perhaps pack a snack and go to the park, a friend’s house or go shopping. Start the idea of getting up, getting ready and getting out.
3. Reading routines
Sometimes over a holiday we may replace our normal bedtime reading routine with a game or a family film, which is fun and great connecting time. It is important though to reintroduce reading to children before they return to school so that the demands at school and of homework aren’t too big a change for them, and their little brains are in the swing of focusing, and learning new words and concepts.
4. Be positive
Returning to school may mean lots of changes, so get excited for them. It may be a new lunchbox or new stationery (who doesn’t like new stationery?!). A new school bag or new school shoes – this was one of my kids favourite outings, buying new school shoes for the new school year; showing how much they had grown and were bigger now. Bring some enthusiasm and energy to meeting new people like a new teacher or new classmates.
5. Check in on their emotions
Check in and ask how they are feeling about returning to school. We are all facing a new ‘CoVid-normal’ life, so invite them to share their thoughts and feelings. Don’t anticipate anxiety and don’t brush it off as “silly”. Be prepared to normalise and validate their feelings without exaggerating them or increasing their sense of vulnerability. Reinforce how resilient they are and how they have gotten through other times when they have felt a little wobbly.
6. Organise a walk-in buddy
This is especially good for little ones who are a bit anxious, but it also helps others as well. Organise for a sibling, a friend or a classmate, to meet with them as you arrive at school, at the allocated drop-off point so they can walk in together. This reinforces that others are doing exactly what they are doing and returning to school is a normal, exciting and fun time.
Also remember, that you too may be feeling a bit edgy at returning to a school-day routine. Don’t forget to breathe, be patient and be present (not one step ahead).
Enjoy what a new school year can bring – new learning, new growth, new experiences and new connections.