6 Tips to Help Your Child Adjust to Back-to-School

Whether your young child is attending preschool for the first time or returning to preschool or elementary school, the transition from summer to school involves many considerations. Here are six ways you can help your child have an easier adjustment period.

1) Get into a routine

The first few days of school are an ideal time to ease your child into their new routines. For example, you can create your school-days morning routine with small adjustments such as eating breakfast together at the same time each morning. Following a predictable routine will remove one area of worry from your child’s life, allowing them to focus on other components of their new school life with greater ease.

2) Practice

If a school-days routine is unfamiliar to your child, practicing can help. Together, you can do things such as walk or drive the route to school and back, pack their backpack, and prepare packed lunches or snacks. If your child is nervous about school, this can help them to familiarize themselves with the process and reduce their anxiety.

This practice period doesn’t have to end after the first day. Your child may need a longer adjustment period than you may imagine. Have open and honest conversations with your child in the first few weeks of school, and find ways you can help to make their new routine easier.

3) Read back-to-school books

Another way to help your child ease their back-to-school nerves is by reading books. There are many good back-to-school books for children of all ages, which show them what to expect, and help them feel that the new school environment doesn’t have to be scary. When reading these books, discuss how your child is feeling, and respectfully and calmly address any fears they may have.

4) Team up with other parents

If you know other parents whose children will be joining your child at their school, arranging a playdate can be a good way to help with the back-to-school transition. If your child already has friends in their class, you can even hold a back-to-school party to celebrate the start of another school year. By meeting and interacting with other children, your child may feel less scared about who they will play with or talk to in the first few days of school. As the days go by and your child makes new friends, be sure to include these children in regular playdates as well. This will help your child solidify their new friendships.

5) Discuss your child's feelings

Going back to school is a big transition for any child, and they might feel nervous, excited, embarrassed, optimistic, insecure, vulnerable, curious - or all of the above. Whatever your child is feeling, it's important to show your support by having open and honest discussions. Ask open-ended questions such as, "What are you thinking about the most when you think about going back to school?" or "How did you feel in school today?" If your child is worried or shy, it can be tempting to bolster their self-esteem. However, it's more useful to respond with compassion and empathy, and help them to find ways they can cope. For example, you can say, "I remember feeling really shy on my first day of school too, and it took a few days for everyone to start playing together. Do you think you can practice by just saying hi to your new friend tomorrow, or sitting next to them during storytime?"

6) Be patient

Even if your child is excited for school, it is still a major adjustment. Give your child time to adjust, even if it takes several weeks. During this adjustment period, remain positive and supportive. Discuss your child’s feelings and listen to their concerns. You may want to ask your child’s teacher for tips on how you can make the transition period easier. Here are some other ways you can help your child adjust to going back to school.

The transition to school is an important event for any child, and one that comes with many emotions. However, with these tips, you can help your child get ready for back-to-school and make the adjustment period easier in the initial weeks of the school year.