Heading back to school after a summer break can be difficult for parents and other caregivers, as well as children. Here are some suggestions to help transition from summer to a school schedule.
Routines: Start the back-to-school routine a couple of weeks before the first day of school. The routine might look like dinner at 6, bath time at 7, a story and then bed. Keeping to a regular schedule helps your child know what will happen next, alleviating stress and worry.
Bedtime/wake up: A consistent bedtime and regular morning wake-up time should be implemented. If your child is not up at the right time, wake him or her. Have your child eat a healthy breakfast every morning. (For suggestions, see the American Pediatrics Association’s recommendations at http://bit.ly/2wtPhWH.) After breakfast, have him/her brush teeth, wash face and get dressed – just like he or she is heading off to school. This exercise will set the stage for your youngster to rehearse and learn the evening and school-morning routines.
Drop off: Upon entering the classroom, a teacher will greet you and your child. You may be given a written schedule of daily events and your child may get a picture schedule to track his or her school day. Many classrooms also have “sign-in boards,” where children can move their picture from home to school. This practice is helpful for children to transition to being at school. After “signing in,” have your child put his or her belongings in the cubby, then take a few minutes to review their daily schedule.
Your departure: Before leaving, inform your child who will pick him/her up and when. For example, “Dad will pick you up at recess time.” Try not to linger – kiss your child goodbye, then leave. Remember that your child
is building trust with everyone in their lives – leaving without saying goodbye is easier on the adult, but very difficult on the child.
Pick up: Whoever picks up your child after school should ask the child about the day. Hear what your child is telling you and help him/her to feel comfortable. Share in both the joyful experiences as well as those troublesome ones. Try not to “fix” every problem – children need to learn to think critically and build resiliency. Help your child brainstorm problem-solving techniques to deal with difficulties at school. Also, share your day as well.
Remember that morning drop-offs and afternoon pick-ups occur during public times, when it is difficult for your child’s teacher to give you the attention you deserve; make an appointment to speak in private if you have something in-depth to discuss.
Review: While driving home from school, chat with your child about what will happen when you arrive home. For example: it will be time to hang up your backpack, wash your hands, and play, followed by cleaning up for dinner, a bath, a story, then bed. Preview what will happen the next morning. Think about using a picture schedule for home routines, which will give your child an opportunity to track what will happen next.
Other helpful tips
• Ask your local librarian to recommend books that tell stories about school, friends, missing caregivers, etc.
• Take pictures of your child’s classroom and cubby. Print the pictures, then use them to illustrate a story that you and your child write about school.
• Decorate your child’s cubby with photos of family and pets. If your child misses you or the pet during the day, a peek in the cubby can help.
• Talk about friends your child has met at school and arrange playdates.
• Arrive at school a few minutes early to meet other families and classmates your child talks about.
JO-ANNE DeGIACOMO PETRIE (firstname.lastname@example.org) is director of early childhood education at the David C. Isenberg Family Early Childhood Center at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.