We are headed back to school next week here in the Olympia area and getting ready to send the kids back (or get them started) can be a little tricky. Back to bedtime routines, early mornings, longer days with more structure, and homework....so much to adjust to!
There are lots of kids and families who will struggle with anxious feelings regarding returning to this season of life. The best thing we can do as parents is try to prepare ahead of time to the change in routine.
Here are a few tips that we have found successful:
Visit the School
Whether it is just a random visit or an open house, taking a walk around the grounds and showing them where they will play, eat and learn is a great way to make them more comfortable in their environment. Open houses are a great time to meet their teacher, see their desk, show them the restrooms, nurses's office and playground. Knowing what to expect can really set your child's mind at ease.
Read Books About Going to School
Reading books is a great way to give examples of all sorts of scenarios regarding school. There are so many to choose from for all ages! They can help showcase that your child's feelings are valid and that there are others who might feel the same way they do (shy, anxious, excited, etc) about starting school.
A few titles we like are First Day Jitters, Penelope's New School, Pigeon HAS to go to school and The Kissing Hand.
This is such a fun way to get conversations going and help your child navigate different situations. Let them be the teacher and show how they would do things. Or present certain questions and scenarios they may struggle with like sharing, taking turns, conflict resolution, clean up and following instructions. The possibilities are endless really! Playing school can be a stress free activity with tons of benefits!
Back to Routine
Setting up a routine always seems to be the hardest, yet most productive thing you can do for kids. They thrive in structure, yet seem to fight it a lot. The easiest and simplest forms of routine are consistent bedtimes and wake up times. Sleep (or lack there of) is a major factor in a child's ability to learn, focus, sustain their energy and their overall attitude and happiness. A rough estimate for sleep guidelines per age group looks like this:
Ages 3-5 years old........................10-13 hours per 24 hour day
Ages 6-12 years old......................9-12 hours per 24 hour day
Ages 13-18 years old....................8-10 hours per 245 hour day
Every child is different and some may need more or less hours than these suggestions, but it's a good place to start.
Make a Morning Checklist
If mornings are an issue, sometimes a visual schedule or reminder is a great way to keep kids on track and help them take responsibility for the start of their day.
The example below is easy to print out and place in a frame. They can use dry erase markers to check as they go and then wipe clean for the next day! Make your own or search for great printable online! Print this one here.
The start of a new year is always filled with all kinds of emotions. Make sure you take the time to check in with your child (and yourself) on how things are going. Remember to have fun and don't hesitate to reach out for help if you need it; our therapists are always willing to problem solve and find a solution.
Have a great school year!!