It is back-to-school time for you and your children again, or maybe for the first time! In the summer, we sometimes give children a break from routines. So getting ready for school again, and returning to consistent schedules, can sometimes bring on stress or anxiety for your family. Take steps now to make this transition as smooth as possible for you and your child.
Here are some helpful ways to support your child in getting back into a routine for falling asleep each night:
- Spend some time unwinding with a quiet activity before going to bed (avoid watching TV right before bed).
- Follow a consistent bedtime routine every night – include baths and story time as part of the routine (even older children benefit from reading chapter books together).
- Do a quick bedtime check to make sure your child has done everything (brushed teeth, had a drink of water, used the bathroom).
- Allow soft music or a night-light – leave the room while your child is still awake so they fall asleep on their own.
- Remind them you will be in shortly to check on them.
Once your child is back in school, create a partnership with your child’s teacher, establish a daily routine, and be confident and supportive starting day one. This can help make the back-to-school transition an enjoyable experience for you and your child.
Create and Nurture your Family-Teacher Relationship
- Share pertinent information with your child’s teacher every day at drop-off and pickup times. Ask questions to clarify any concerns that you may have. Keep the lines of communication open.
- Teachers are trained and prepared for tears and other emotional situations with young children. During the first few weeks of school, arrive a bit early to help your child settle in. Allow the teacher to greet you and your child as you walk in.
Create a Daily Routine
- Invite your child to help set out clothes, pack his or her backpack, or choose a photo or favorite stuffed animal to take to school.
- In the morning, after you have greeted the teacher, sit down and do a quick puzzle, picture or dough sculpture with your child. Follow up with a special good-bye ritual — give a hug, blow two kisses, give a high-five, etc. If necessary, transition your child to the teacher and say good-bye. Never sneak out on your child. This creates distrust and more anxiety.
- In the afternoon, read daily events posted by your child’s teacher. Greet the teacher and then play for a brief moment with your child to help transition out of the school day. Allow your child time to finish up what he or she is doing. On the way home, talk with your child about what you read in the posted daily events.
- Create a routine with consistent drop-off and pickup scheduled times. This reassures your child and offers you and the teacher a time frame to refer to.
Be Confident and Supportive
- Be positive and show confidence when you say good-bye to children. Reassure them they are safe and let them know when they are going to be picked up and by whom. For example, say, “Dad will be here to pick you up after you finish your afternoon snack.”
- Be patient if your child has occasional emotional meltdowns. He or she may exhibit past behaviors such as bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, clinging to your leg, or resistance. This is normal transition behavior.
- Encourage children to talk about how they feel. Support their feelings and talk with your teacher or your center director regarding books or ideas that can help them through this transition time.
Thinking ahead about back-to-school time will benefit your child. We invite you to establish routines, build relationships with teachers, and enjoy this wonderful time of year with your child.