My daughter Daphne is enjoying her outdoor summer adventures—learning to swim at Rinconada Pool, playing with driftwood at San Gregorio State Beach and climbing trees in parks everywhere! While we are making the most of every day, at times my mind darts ahead to the beginning of the school year. What will it be like? How can I help her transition from summer to the school year? Here are some suggestions to help children successfully move from laid-back days to the structure of school.
Know That Your Child May Be Nervous
Some kids look forward to the start of school with eager anticipation. For others, though, going back may be challenging. “Be patient with your children’s anxieties,” advises Barbara Rabin, MS, co-founder of The Children’s School, a new private school in Mountain View, and an educator who has taught elementary school for several years. “Change is always challenging. Just remembering this [can relax your] expectations. A transition can pass without too much upset if you accept the tears and worries of your children and know that this change takes time.”
Consider using these tips to help during the summer, right before school starts and after school starts.
During the Summer
Schedule Playdates. If your school offers set summer playdates, take advantage of them, says Beth Turnidge, a Mountain View parent of two. They can help your child connect with friends from the school year or meet new ones. No school-sponsored playdates? Schedule your own.
Keep Learning Alive.
- Check out books on subjects your child is interested in. Encourage her to practice reading. Or, make sure you read aloud to non-readers (and readers too!).
- Be creative. Look for ways to playfully incorporate math skills into everyday activities. For example, have your child count the change at the grocery store.
- Take field trips to new locations to stimulate your child. If he’s interested in animals, try the Oakland Zoo. If she likes sea life, why not go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium?
Visit the School. Make sure your child can find locations such as his classroom, the cafeteria, restrooms, library and pick-up/drop-off spot. Turnidge encourages you to visit your child’s actual classroom if she is afraid.
Near the Start of the School Year
Tell Your Child What to Expect. Discuss what the new school year will be like. What will be the same? What will be different? Will the school day be longer? Explain any expectations you think the teacher will have. For example, your first grader may be expected to sit for longer time periods than she did in kindergarten.
Get in a Routine. Your schedule may have been more relaxed during the summer. Maybe mealtimes varied, bedtimes were later than during the school year or you let your child wear pajamas the whole day if he wanted! Before school starts, move toward a routine that will work for the school year.
Get Organized. Buy any needed school supplies (let your child help!). Make sure his backpack and lunch box are in good shape or buy new ones. Set up a special area in which to do homework. “Make a cubby by the front door to put lunch bags, binders and backpacks in,” advises Turnidge.
The night before the first day of school set out your child’s clothes, shoes and school supplies so there’s not a mad rush to find them in the morning.
Get Sleep. The number one piece of advice from parents and teachers? Get enough sleep! Turnidge advises, “Get to bed early so you can wake up early.” At the end of the summer try to transition to the wake-up time kids will need for the school year.
When School Has Started
Getting to know your child’s teacher can help the transition, advises Rabin. “As you develop a respectful, caring relationship with the teacher, sharing your feelings and those of your child can be comforting,” she says. “Just the right way to support the transition will become evident as authentic feelings are shared.”
Attend back-to-school night as well. Listen to the teacher and address any transition challenges. Set up a private meeting if need be.
Especially for Kindergarteners
The transition between preschool and kindergarten is an important one, so make sure you set up a soon-to be kindergartener for success! Sally Brenton, director and pre-K teacher at Parents Nursery School in Palo Alto, shares these suggestions:
1. Attend the kindergarten play dates so many schools set up. Make plans to meet one of those families at the park, or set up an individual play date if it feels right.
2. Practice walking to school or taking the car. Check your timing—do a reenactment in the middle of the day—from PJs in bed to arrival at school.
3. Talk about the teacher, and what might happen in kindergarten as the school year nears.
4. Check your child’s self-help skills. Does she know what the snack is in her lunch box so she doesn’t eat her whole lunch at snack time? Can he open everything in his lunch by himself? Can she undo her clothes by herself when she needs to go potty?
5. Understand that after the first day of kindergarten, your child may be excited, tired, cranky and hungry. Feed her, take her to the park, read books or go for a bike ride. DO NOT go shopping, take her out to lunch with one of your friends, go to the doctor or do anything else where she has to maintain. She’s been maintaining all morning and needs to let loose!
A Final Word
“It takes a number of weeks to adjust to the new school routine,” says Rabin. “Keeping a sense of humor, accepting that this takes time, and finding the patience within yourself to face this process makes it less worrisome.”
April Durrett is an freelance writer, editor and proofreader who lives in Sunnyvale. She is a contributing editor for IDEA Fitness Journal and mom to a 5-year-old girl about to enter kindergarten. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image provided by Melissa Miller & Vinnie Fernandez, PAMP’s Lead Photographers and co-owners of C’est Jolie Photography