By Lori Long

As we wind down from summer fun, parents and caregivers are slowly changing their thoughts from vacation, cook outs, and swimming, to new schedules, and those long school supply lists. This process can be a tough transition for parents and children.

Does your child have stress and anxiety about transitioning back to school? Some children are not just transitioning back to a different classroom, but an entirely new school. Not knowing what to expect can cause anxiety and less confidence going into the new school year. Here are some ways to help you and your child transition with grace and ease.

  1. Get Back on Track
    One of the most difficult transitions for children is getting back into a routine. During summer break, schedules are more relaxed and many parents push bed times up and allow their child to sleep later in the mornings. Getting back into a routine before school begins is very important for your child to feel their best.At least one week before school starts, make it a priority to be home and end the day a little earlier than usual. You may consider setting the bedtime 15-20 minutes earlier each night and getting up 15-20 minutes earlier each morning until they are back on track! Here is a great link that tells you how much sleep is enough depending on your child’s age.
  2. Facing the Unknown
    Meeting your child’s new teachers is a great opportunity to build confidence and face the fears of the unknown. A lot of anxiety comes from not knowing what to expect. Most schools have a back to school night or some event to help your child transition back. You can look on your child’s school website or call the school for these important dates.If your child has an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) make sure you read over it looking at the ending date of the plan and your child’s goals. This will also help you get back in the mindset and refocused on school.While you are visiting the school, talk to your child about what is going to be the same and different from last year. Hopefully, the teacher will also talk to your child about specific classroom expectations and fun things to look forward to in the upcoming year.If possible, check out the places that are important to your child like the cafeteria, gym, and playground while you are there. There will be some paperwork to fill out and return. Get organized and get that paperwork back to the school as soon as possible. Don’t forget to get the supply list!
  3. Supply Lists Shopping Date
    Make a special shopping date and get your child involved and excited about going back to school. Kids want to fit in and have the needed items. Book bags, lunch boxes, clothes, and shoes may be items they want to try on! Sometimes items that have their favorite characters are enough to get them excited about going back to school. Don’t forget to take advantage of the tax-free shopping weekend for back to school items. For the state of Virginia, the 2017 dates are August 4th through 6th!
  4. Get Physical
    Scheduling doctor’s and dentist’s appointments before the summer ends can be a big help in keeping on schedule. Appointments during school hours can interrupt the flow of the school day and also cause your child to have more anxiety. Make sure your child is current on their physical and immunizations before returning to school. If your child takes medication at school make sure you have all needed paperwork in place prior to school beginning. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with the school nurse about any specific health concerns.
  5. Work it out!
    Work out all schedules and transportation ahead of time. If they are riding a bus for the first time, here is a great article to help get them prepared. If your child will be going to a babysitter, daycare, or extra-curricular after school activity, make sure they know the details and expectations. More complicated family structures require a little more planning, so make sure to work it out and communicate the plan to your child. A visual schedule/calendar that they carry with them is a great way to reduce anxiety for more complicated schedules.
  6. Stay Positive
    Although you might want to extend your summer a few more months, stay positive. Maintaining a calm and reassuring demeanor about going back to school will foster confidence and competency. Make positive comments about the school, teachers, classmates, etc., when talking in front of your child. If you are positive and excited about beginning a new school year, it will be contagious!

Hopefully, these tips will help make the transition for you family a little easier. If you have any other helpful suggestions, please share below!