As summer comes to a close, it’s time for another huge transition in our children’s lives: a new school year.
Some kids handle this transition with ease. Others don’t! And most all kids need some help with transitions: from bed to school, from school to home, from play to work, from awake to sleep, etc.
The transition from summer to school is a big one because with it often come new teachers, new classrooms, new routines, new extracurricular activities, new shoes, new this, new that – so much newness!
For our kids, there’s excitement, for sure, and also uncertainty: who will eat lunch with me? will my teacher understand me? will my caregiver know where to find me after school? will the homework be hard?
When we feel uncertain and unsafe, the brain goes into “threat” mode; and tantrums, power struggles, and melt-downs are all much easier to trigger in this state.
So how can we help our kids feel a sense of safety and certainty during this major transition? Here are some tips:
1. Re-establish (or establish!) morning, bedtime, and homework routines. Routines create predictability and safety for kids of all ages (even adults!) by both clarifying what’s expected, as well as giving advance notice for what’s coming next. Visual reminders (a chart, a picture, a list) can provide a literal picture of success, and help transfer responsibility from parent to child.
For example, if I find my child dawdling in the morning, rather than bark commands from across the room, I can simply point to the chart or ask, “what’s next on your routine chart?” and let them take it from there. Now I’m not the boss, the routine is! And if your child has helped create the routine, well then they are the boss, too, and that’s self-discipline. For more on routines, and how to create them with your kids, click here.
2. Practice the routine! Who would wait until “showtime” to practice the script? Think of the first day of school as “showtime,” and the routine as the “script.” Have you practiced getting up and going through the morning routine? Practice definitely makes better!
3. Build in time for genuine connection. Your child’s greatest source of safety is her relationship with you. Our kids get a huge sense of belonging and significance when we take time to connect with them, and those good feelings will help them manage the transition with more ease.
There are so many ways to connect with our kids: listening with empathy, hugs, 1:1 time, laughing and playing together, a love note in the lunch box and more. How will you build connection during this transition time? Enjoy it!
I am well-schooled by your great parenting workshops Marcilie and was already on step 1 & 2 for the new school year, although writing up a spanky new chart is a great idea! (fresh chart, fresh start!). I mostly loved step 3 though as my youngest starts Kinder and struggles with separation anxiety. This reminded me to start thinking about how & when I can make special time for him, a new ritual just for him. I’m thinking Sunday night ice-cream walk down the street?! Thanks for the tips!
Hi Lana, it’s great to hear from you! I might steal your saying, “Fresh chart, fresh start!” My old ones are pretty stale now that I think of it. A Sunday night ice-cream walk down the street sounds delightful in so many ways! A ritual of special time is a terrific idea. Thanks for your comments!