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First Few Weeks of School: Tips for Survival

The first few weeks of school can be great, but they can also bring challenges for kids and parents.  Changing from the relaxed schedule and feeling of summer to the routine and structure of school can be hard for some children.

Here is information to make this transition go better for the first few weeks of school

Be Prepared For Temporary Changes In Behavior During the First Few Weeks of  School

Often the change in expectations, routines, and structure causes children to have an increase in tantrums, defiance, and sometimes even aggression.  Some parents describe their children as being very tired and irritable during the first few weeks of school.  Keep in mind that these changes are often very temporary.

Think Of It As Like When You Start A New Job

I encourage parents to think about going back to school for children like when they start a new job themselves.  Your child may experience the same feelings that you have when you are in a new work environment.  You might have experienced anxiety, uncertainty about your co-workers and boss, fatigue due to learning new routines and expectations, and even an irritable mood.

Your child’s transition to school is very similar to your transition to a new job.  He might be worried about if he will like his new teacher?  Or will the new teacher like him?  Children may be uncertain about if they will like the other children in their class or if those children will like them.  It is not uncommon for children to worry that they might not have anyone to play with at recess.  At the beginning of the year, children learn new expectations for their behavior, new schedules, and new routines.  All these changes can cause children to be really tired and irritable during the first few weeks of school.

Use Self-Care as a Parent

Mentally prepare yourself that your child may have temporary behavior and/or mood changes during the first few weeks of school.   Remind yourself that these changes are temporary.  Try to get extra rest yourself.  Avoid adding new demands to your personal schedule if possible.  Take care of yourself!

Model Calm

Your child is looking to you for a model of how to feel and act.  Show your child that there is nothing to worry about going back to school.  Avoid getting upset over little things.  Keep your attitude about school light and matter-of-fact.  If your child is anxious about school, go ahead and reflect back what he is saying but avoid over talking about the anxiety.  If you can show calm, even if you have to fake it, it will go far towards helping your child have a better transition to school.

Start Back To School Sleep Schedules

Children who have been on summer sleep schedules will need more rest as classes start.  If you are able to transition back to early bedtimes and early wake up times a week or two before school starts, your child will be well rested and better able to get back in the routine.  According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, school age children need 9-12 hours a sleep a night and teens need 8-10 hours of sleep a night.

Start “Practice” Homework

Some families struggle with getting homework into the evening routine.  If you find that homework is a battle at your house, try starting “practice” homework before school fully starts again.  You can use a workbook to review math facts or spelling words for your child.  Start by doing 5-10 minutes of work a day.  This activity is more about getting back in the habit and less about the actual work.  For children who didn’t read a lot during the summer, try to get back into 10-20 minutes of reading per night.

Manage Electronic Time

If the long days of summer led to a little more screen time, start scaling back before school is in full swing.  You can reduce time by 15 minutes a day until you get to the amount that will allow your child to complete homework, participate in extracurricular activities, play, and get to sleep on time.  For help figuring out how much screen time is right for your child, you can use the Media Time Calculator from the American Academy of Pediatrics.  You can also find helpful information on how to set limits on screen time here and how to choose appropriate movies and games for you family here.

For more articles on learning go to our Hope Springs blog.

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