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Back to School: How to Help Your Kids Transition

July 21, 2014

backtoschool1When the sun sets and summer comes to a close, the last thing your children probably want to think about is the shift from carefree days to the structured schedule of a classroom. However, as a parent or nanny, you can turn the initial gloom to feelings of excitement with transitional activities that will help kids see the value and fun in returning to school in the fall.

Maintain a Schedule

Although summer tends to be full of leisure activities, it is recommended that parents and nannies don’t throw out the schedule completely, says Sherianna Boyle, author of Powered by Me for Educators PreK-12.

“Consistency continues to be important, so try your best to select a summer bed time and stick to it,” says Boyle. “The consistency will help you later in the fall.”

Summer is also a great time to strengthen your child’s brain through play. “Building, playing, swimming, and sports support the development of both hemispheres of the brain,” says Boyle. “Try not to view playing as not doing anything. If children are using their imagination, their brains are growing and strengthening.”

You can also keep education alive by planning activities throughout the summer that promote learning on a consistent basis. “Laying on the grass, looking at the shapes of the clouds in the sky is a way children get to know the world around them,” says Boyle. “For older kids, consider art, cooking and music as a way to engage their creative, imaginative side.”

Encourage Responsibility

If your children are held responsible for rules and chores throughout the summer, the transition back to school may be a little easier, says Boyle. “Summer is a great time to teach chores, such as folding the laundry, sweeping and wiping the table,” she says.

Administer strict rules on electronics, too, so your children do not fall into a digital slump during the summer months. Use caution with electronics and set the ground rules ahead of time, recommends Boyle. “Sit down with your child and come up with what is reasonable for screen time,” she says. “Typically no more than 90 minutes a day is reasonable and electronics should not be permitted until all chores are complete.”

To provide a balance of responsibility and fun, try to engage your child by combining both. Meal times are a natural way to do this, says Boyle. “Summer gives us time to talk about experiences, thoughts, questions and dreams,” she says. “The ability to engage in a one on one or group conversation is a skill they can use later when they transition into school.”

Prepare for School

In addition to shopping for school supplies and picking out clothes for the first day of school, you can help your child transition by attending an open house or tour of the school. Visit the classroom, walk around the building, get to know other children that may be in the same class and meet the teacher, says Boyle. You can do this at any point in the summer. “Most schools are open a couple of weeks before school,” says Boyle. “For children who are truly anxious, sit with them, have them close their eyes and while breathing deeply in their belly, ask them to visualize their transition going well.

Even though your child may imagine himself feeling uncomfortable and nervous on the first day, the more he breathes deeply into his belly, the more the nerves begin to calm and he begins to see the possibility in the year to come, says Boyle.

As a nanny or parent, it’s important for you to let the child know that you will always be there for support. “Listen to their concerns, worries or fears without needing to respond,” suggests Boyle. Phrases such as “You sound worried; I know you will get through this” may help a nervous child adjust to the idea of returning to school.

You can also prepare for the transition by asking your child to write down his worries and then reflect back on what he wrote down later in the year. “Most likely, few of the worries came true,” says Boyle. “This exercise can be very powerful for children of all ages.”

Lastly, make sure that you pay close attention to your own fears and worries, but keep them to yourself to avoid making your child even more nervous. “Close your eyes and be present, as parents and nannies often take on their childrens’ fears,” says Boyle. “Feeling your emotions will give you energy for being present to your child and put you in a position of support and guidance.”


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