With the school year now underway, some of us have recognized the transition from the carefree days of summer to a more focused environment like the classroom is not always smooth for children. Kids, for all their resiliancy, can get a bit overwhelmed with change. Especially when the change is as dramatic as this.
During summer, our sleeping patterns change and our routines alter. We make concessions with our time, our daily habits, our sense of order. It’s one of the finer points of having summer holidays, this lessening of routine, but it can also make for some challenges when it’s time to return to school. No matter how much you talk about the return to school with your kids, it’s not until they’re in the thick of it that we notice the impact.
With our own daughter, the excitement of seeing her teacher and old chums again was offset by considerable fatigue at the end of each day. She was raring to go every morning, and confident heading into the classroom, but weary and out of sorts when she returned home. Heading to school is a big deal.
Hindsight being what it is, I’ve compiled a few quick tips to minimize a child’s anxiety and encourage a confident return to the classroom. Better late than never, I guess.
- Familiarize. Visit the school before the year officially starts. Many schools host meet-the-teacher events, where parents and students can come in and re-familiarize themselves with the classroom. Before this, I began driving by the school regularly with my daughter, en route to a park or play-date. We even stopped and had Gelato around the corner from the school and talked about how close we were. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a great start.
- Begin routines sooner rather than later. If summer mornings include a bit of television but the school year does not, start the change early (we changed to a few minutes of colouring each morning). Try to nudge the bed times back to what works best for school. Same goes for eating habits and play time. The new schedule is like a dress rehearsal for the year to come.
- Be encouraging about all the change. Returning to school means departing from the consistent comforts of home. Since kids take the cues from us, if we’re excited about the new school year (and who isn’t by the end of summer?) then they will eventually be as well. Talk about friends they haven’t seen as much over the holidays, some of the activities they loved from the previous year. Foster their independence, their greatness, their ability to adapt.
- Be consistent. This is the kicker – especially now that school is already underway. Assess what is working in your routines, and what is not, make necessary changes, and then stick to them. A little pattern and consistency goes a long way and kids.
You’re probably thinking you could have used these a month ago. But even with school underway, we can move to implement these tips wherever necessary. In particular, the last one about being consistent. Transition is a movement toward change, toward a distinction from something else. When school starts and summer holidays end, we want our children as prepared as possible so they can be confident in their growth. In a sense we want the transition to be as normal a part of their lives as the routine itself.
Harry Tournemille is a writer and OAC grant recipient living in St. Catharines. He writes on behalf of Beyond Montessori School, a holistic, community-oriented school located in the downtown core – where his daughter attended.