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Back to School: How to Best Support Your Child Transitioning Into the New School Year

It is that time year again! Summer is winding down, anticipation is rising ... and we are heading back to school once more! As a parent or caregiver, supporting your child through the transition of summer vacation back into the classroom can play a vital role in setting a positive tone for the entire school year. Whether your child is feeling excited, nervous, or a mix of emotions, here are some helpful tips and suggestions to help them embark on a strong start to the new school year.

Establish a Consistent Routine:

One of the most effective ways to ease your child into the new school year is to establish a consistent routine. If possible, begin by gradually adjusting bedtime and wake-up times a couple of weeks before school starts. This not only sets your child up to get adequate sleep but also minimizes the morning rush and stress. Aim to set a bedtime that allows your child to have a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night. Set expectations for morning and nighttime routines, emphasizing tasks like getting ready and preparing for the next day. The evening before the first day of school, have all essentials ready to go, including outfits, backpacks, supplies, and lunch, to alleviate any last-minute chaos.

Engage in "Pre" School Transitional Events:

Attend any "meet the teacher" or orientation events offered by the school. These gatherings provide an opportunity for your child to familiarize themselves with their new environment and potentially meet their teacher and classmates before the first day of school. This is also extremely helpful for children who are typically more anxious about attending school. Exposure to the classroom setting and learning more about the upcoming school year can significantly reduce their worries and uncertainties.

Encourage Open Communication:

Encourage open and honest communication with your child. If they express worries or fears about the upcoming school year, take the time to listen attentively. Ask them about their concerns and if they have any ideas on anything you could do to help them. By discussing their worries, you can collaboratively come up with strategies to alleviate their anxieties. Creating a non-judgmental and caring space for your child to express their thoughts and emotions with you, also fosters an environment of trust that encourages ongoing future conversations.

Familiarize with the New Environment:

If your child is transitioning to a new school, take proactive steps to familiarize them with the environment. Visiting the school prior to their first day can help your child become more comfortable with their new surroundings. Walk your child through a typical school day. Discuss details such as how they will get to school, their daily schedule, lunchtime, and after-school plans. Providing a clear picture of what to expect can help reduce uncertainty and create a sense of security. Consider reaching out to the school counselor if your child has anxieties around making new friends or adjusting to a new setting.

Teach Coping Strategies:

Equip your child with coping strategies to help manage the stress and anxiety they may experience at school. A powerful and easy to learn technique such as deep breathing exercises is an effective tool for self-regulation and emotional well-being. Here is a great resource that offers a variety of deep breathing strategies. Play around with the different options to see which one your child finds to be the most helpful. Try to practice deep breathing with your child in both calm and stressful situations, as this will help make it more likely that your child will remember to use deep breathing on their own.

Help Kindergarteners Get Prepped for the Big Day:

For kiddos who are transitioning to their first year in school, their big excitement could be misinterpreted by their brains as fear or worry as those sensations feel very similar in our bodies. In addition to all of the above recommendations, using some bibliotherapy is another great tool to help familiarize little ones with the idea of school. Check out these books:

The beginning of the school year is usually associated with many different emotions for parents and children alike. While it is likely there will always be some level of stress or anxiety around the transition from summer vacation, the above tips can help bring that level down and ensure that your child has a smooth start to the year! Happy Back to School Season!

Callie Caudill, LCSWA is a child therapist and former school social worker. She works with children ages 5-18 and offers in-person therapy in our Asheville, NC office. You can read more about Callie here.


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