Maybe you remember what it was like. We certainly do. Two glorious months with no school to attend. Playing out in the hot sun, riding bikes, going swimming, visiting amusement parks. And of course, all of that was just the beginning. There were family vacations and trips to museums, ice cream cones and watermelon and staying up late while we waited for the sun to set. It was just so perfect! Why would anyone willingly go back to the drudgery of school five days a week, of daily homework after enjoying heaven on earth? Of course, we had no choice, and we stomped our feet, pouted out our lips, and punished our parents inflicting this injustice upon us.
Maybe you had the same experience, and now it’s your own children’s turn. Maybe you’re dreading the complaints, the hissy fits, the overall sour moods that come when you start preparing your kids for the next school year. We’ve been there too, and we’ve learned a few things to help soften the blow and ease that transition from heavenly summer to yet another school year. Read on if you could use a few tips.
- Back to school shopping. Yes, we know that this can feel a bit like paying for your kids’ enthusiasm. And, well, it is. But it’s also necessary shopping, and if a few shiny new things help shine up their outlook on the coming school year, what’s the harm? So, go out and shop for new clothes, new shoes, new scholastic gear like notepads, pens, maybe a new laptop or tablet if it’s truly necessary (no need to spoil them rotten). If you have a younger child who is nervous to start school, let him or her choose a new backpack with their favorite animal on it, and get it personalized with their name to get them excited to start using it.
- Visit the school for a trial run. It can be daunting for a little one to attend a new school. It can be hard for an older child as well, especially if you’ve just moved to a new area where he or she doesn’t know anyone. Fear, nervousness, anxiety: all these can contribute to your child’s bad mood in the days leading up to the new school year. To help allay those concerns, it can be helpful to visit the campus and walk around, letting your child familiarize him or herself. Any unknown variables you can make known will help your kids handle that difficult transition.
- Arrange playdates. This can prove invaluable. If your child already knows the school and simply dreads going back, arranging times to socialize with classmates from previous school years will help create excitement about seeing that friend more often in class. However, if your child is new to a school or town, going that extra mile to find out who his or her classmates are and arranging a playdate will go a long way toward helping your child feel more comfortable about going to school.
- Encourage open conversations about school. We often forget just how much our children are like ourselves. While we experience stress, anxiety, and even depression over our careers and work-lives, we sometimes fail to realize children have work-lives too, with no small amount of stressors and often just as many hours. That work-life is school, of course, and asking your children about their hopes and their fears for the school year will help you gauge where they are at and how you can help.
- Read books about going to school. This one piggybacks on step 4. For young children, understanding and communicating emotions can be very hard. However, there are many children’s books that revolve around going back to school or attending school for the first time. Often written by child psychologists, these books can help bring your child’s emotions to the surface and allow him or her to sort through them with your help.
For your kids, summer is the embodiment of joy, and losing that can be tough. Throw in the stressors that come with the school year, and you’re likely to have some grumpy little ones. Following the suggestions above will help you help them deal with those feelings of disappointment and fear.