Just as we settled into the rhythm of summer, it seems we are now having to pivot to the approach of fall and back-to-school. This is a transitional time, which can be significant for families, moving from a pace that may feel more relaxed and carefree to one that requires more structure with the starts of school.
Here are five suggestions to help families adjust from summer break to back-to-school:
1. Establish Consistent Routines: Routines provide a sense of stability and predictability, which can help reduce anxiety and stress for both children and adults. Getting onto a consistent schedule can help regulate sleep patterns, which can promote a smoother transition back to school. Start working on getting to bed 1-2 hours earlier than during the summer months, every day. Work on getting up 1-2 hours earlier. Work on sleep hygiene, by encouraging screen time limits 1-2 hours prior to the desired bedtime. Sleep requires a period of relaxation and the absence of screens to help the natural sleep-inducing melatonin to rise.
2. Visit the School Ahead of Time: Along with excitement, as they will be seeing their friends after a break for the summer, for some kids, the start of school can be very stressful. New grades, new classes, new classmates and maybe a new school can trigger intense emotions. Remind your child that the first day is often the hardest, but every day, with continued attendance, those feelings will become more manageable. Visiting school before the first day may be an effective way to help children become familiar with their surroundings (drive past the school, visit the playground, meet the teachers, or school staff or kids in the school if possible). Participate in any activities that may be offered at the school (such as a BBQ for new or returning families). If your child is school avoidant, you may wish to speak to the school staff (guidance counsellor or principal) to work on strategies to help alleviate the anxiety.
3. Create a Positive Back-to-School Tradition: Have some fun! Establishing a special tradition, like a family breakfast or lunch prep routine or placing special notes in their lunchbox, adds a positive aspect to the back-to-school experience. This creates a sense of connection and excitement, helping to ease potential apprehensions.
4. Engage in Seasonal Activities: Planning ahead for fall-themed activities, such as apple picking, pumpkin carving, or nature walks, promotes quality family time and a positive connection to the changing season. Creating enjoyable traditions can help foster positive anticipation for the season ahead.
5. Practice Self-Care as a Family:Prioritizing self-care activities like relaxation exercises, mindfulness, or outdoor adventures can enhance the family’s overall well-being. Self-care promotes stress reduction, emotional regulation, and a shared sense of rejuvenation during the transition.
Everyone has their own unique reaction to going back to school, and it’s important to provide individualized support based on their personality and needs. These strategies can help create a smoother transition and promote a positive attitude towards the upcoming school year.
We wish everyone a positive start to the new school year and hope that you all had an enjoyable summer.
The team at Whole Heart is dedicated to helping families live better lives. To learn about our programs and services go to: https://wholeheartmentalhealth.com/services/