Transition Kids Early for a Successful Start to the School Year
Expert offers tips for easing anxiety amidst new routine
From the pool to the playground children are constantly on the move during summer vacation, but after months of camp, family vacations, and fun in the sun, getting back in to the habit of school demands attention from both parents and children. New teachers and classmates, coupled with a change in routine and the addition of schoolwork, can be unnerving and overwhelming for kids. To help create a smooth transition, experts recommend parents take a proactive approach and get an early start to ease kids back into school.
“Heading back to school after the long summer vacation can be tough on parents and students,” said Anita Chandra, MD, FAAP, pediatrician at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group. “The transition takes time, participation, creativity, and flexibility in order to get kids off to a healthy start.”
Chandra adds that while summer vacation is designed to give children a necessary vacation, certain challenges can arise if children are mentally “set free” during the summer months. According to Chandra, anxiety, short attention spans and trouble adjusting to a new schedule and longer days are among the most common challenges, but can be easily addressed with a little pre-planning and dedication from parents.
• Ease Anxiety – Children are aware of the stress that comes with school. Meeting new classmates, homework assignments and extracurricular activities bring forth new challenges and the pressure to succeed. A few weeks before school starts talk with your child about what they like about school and what they’re looking forward to. Also, talk with your child about your expectations for their bedtime and morning plans, so when the time comes they aren’t feeling stressed and know what is expected of them. Have your child get used to waking up to the sound of an alarm clock so they become familiar with the sound again, and consider a dry run before the first day of school to help make children comfortable.
• Help Kids Stay Focused – When school is in session, children are required to stay seated for most of the day. This is a significant change from the summer months when kids bounce from activity to activity and aren’t required to stay focused on one activity or sit still for long periods of time. To help prepare children, encourage them to play quiet games, puzzles and read periodically throughout the day. This will ease them back into the learning process.
“It’s best to not let your children lose this discipline throughout the summer,” said Chandra. “Check for programs at your local library too. Many host summer reading programs for kids.”
• Establish a Routine – Many children don’t have a set schedule of activities throughout the day during summer break, which can lead to stress, frustration and in some cases behavior problems when school rolls around. Chandra suggests parents try to maintain at least a loose schedule during the summer months.
“Kids like and thrive on predictability,” said Chandra. “There doesn’t need to be a rigid schedule in place, but even the resemblance of routine a couple of days per week can help provide structure and let kids know what to expect.”
Chandra also suggests easing back into long days by adhering to a set bed time each night and as school draws near, a set wake up time each morning.
“Following these simple tips can help create a smooth start to the school year and get everyone off on the right foot,” said Chandra. “Back to school should be an exciting time for parents and children.”
In the final weeks before school starts, Chandra also reminds parents to make sure their child’s vaccinations are up to date, which vary by age but often include Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, Influenza and measles, mumps and rubella. Back-to-school dental and eye exams are also strongly encouraged.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit nmpg.com or call 312-926-DOCS (3627).