Tips to Help Ease the Back to School Transition

parenting school

It’s time to gear up to go back to school! This time of year causes a lot of stress for children and parents alike. For some children this is an exciting time when they look forward to seeing all their friends again and meeting their new teachers. For other children this is time of heightened anxiety; especially for those children who are making a “big” transition, such as moving from elementary to middle school or middle school to high school. This transition may not only be stressful for children but also for parents.

Here are a few things parents can do to help your child ease into a big school transition and reduce some of the anxiety he or she may feel. This list is intended to help you and your child with logistical, social, and academic concerns.

Logistical Concerns:

  • Take advantage of the new student orientation nights/back-to-school nights that the school may offer. This will allow your child time to become familiar with the school, the lay out, and the location of his or her locker and classes.
  • If possible, go to the school and get a copy of the child’s class schedule ahead of time. This will allow your child time to become familiar with what classes he or she will be taking and what a typical school day will look like.
  • Make several copies your child’s class schedule to place in different binders/folders or take a picture of the schedule on your child’s phone if he or she will always have their cell phone on them. This will help ease your child’s anxiety of not being able to find his or her schedule and not making it to class on time.
    Since it is sometimes not possible to be able to walk the school before the first day of school, find out the length of the time between classes. Time it out for your child. This will demonstrate how far he or she can walk in that amount of time. This can help reduce the anxiety that many children have of not believing that it is enough time to make it from one class to the next.
  • If your child will be using a locker lock, allow plenty of time for him or her to practice opening the lock several times. Locks can be intimidating to children, especially when they’ve never had to use one before. The more that your child practices, the easier it will be for him or her to remember the combination and feel confident using a lock when the first day of school arrives.

Social Concerns:

  • Encourage your child to become involved in extracurricular activities. This can include sports or clubs that the school has to offer.
  • Encourage your child to stay in contact with the friends that he or she had in elementary school to ease the potential loneliness that he or she may feel in the early weeks of school. Suggest opportunities for friends to get together before and after school starts.
  • Encourage your child to join in on group conversations. Remind him or her to use good social skills such as how to appropriately interrupting, adding something relevant to the conversation, active listening, etc.

Academic Concerns:

  • Meet with your child’s teachers early in the school year to know their preferred forum for communication. Let the teachers know any concerns you may have about your child and ways to monitor his or her progress.
  • Help your child with time management skills. Work together on a schedule for study time, break time, chores, etc. It is important that this is a collaborative effort between you and your child. Your child is more likely to adhere to the schedule if he or she had some say in what the schedule looks like. School transitions also coincide with new developmental stages for your child, meaning that your child will naturally want to develop greater independence. Allow this to be a time when you work together to structure practice of good time management skills that will be essential for success in the future.
  • Work out an organizational system with your child. Organization is not something that comes naturally to all. Help your child develop a system that works best for him or her. Try to avoid criticism or pushing your own methods of organization on your child. Instead, ask what your child thinks will be a good method and offer suggestions or ideas if your child is interested. Remember, what works for you may not work for your child, and that is okay.
  • With your child, create a designated homework/study area. Pick a place in the house that is free of distractions (or as free of distractions as possible). You want the area to be well lit, quiet, and comfortable. Consistency is key, so make certain to urge your child to use the same area regularly.
  • Go to the back-to-school night, open houses, parent-teacher conferences and other events where you can connect with your child’s teachers and learn about their expectations. This will help you guide your child during the academic year more effectively.
  • Help your child be his or her own advocate. Encourage your child to discuss problems and solutions with teachers directly. Be ready to step-in as needed but only if your child has exhausted his or her ability to be effective independently and only when you have permission from your child.

Parents can set the stage to help their children return to school and make these big transitions go more smoothly. Being proactive, calm, and reassuring goes a long way in modeling a positive approach to the new year.

Written by Allyson Weldon, Ph.D. for the Linden Blog.  If you are interested in receiving Linden Blog updates with original articles about parenting, families, mental health, and wellness, subscribe using the field below. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment at Linden BP call 440/250-9880.