As teachers and parents, we know big transitions are hard on children, resulting in every reaction from nervous excitement to tantrums. A longer and more structured transition designed and coached by parents can help set our students up for a more successful transition from summer vacation back to the school year routine. Here are several strategies for creating structure and systems to help your child make the transition:
1. Make a transition back to the schedule and routine of the school year. By August, my own kids are staying up with the sun, sleeping in late, enjoying more relaxed screen time guidelines, and living a more unpredictable and adventurous daytime schedule. About now, we can begin to ease back the bedtime, wake up earlier using an alarm, create a checklist for a morning routine that gets kids ready to be out the door in 30 minutes or less. Useful tools include alarm clocks, blackout shades, visual timers, whiteboards, and wall calendars/planners.
2. Schedule playdates with classmates new and old. Children make a lot of developmental growth over the course of the summer. This includes their social and emotional maturity. Anxiety and excitement about the status and possibilities of peer relationship make the transition back to school full of heightened emotions. Ease some of that by connection with classmates well before school begins. Reconnect with other parents too. Establish regular playdates throughout the year before schedules get too crammed.
3. Look through the yearbook and/or last year’s work (then clear out the work and get ready for this year’s artifacts). It’s fun and rewarding to look back on the memories and accomplishments of last year. The visuals in the yearbook make the memories more accessible and trigger different connections in your child’s brain. This is a great way for both of you to “pick up where you left off” in preparation for the new year’s curriculum and work. Getting some review in before the start of school helps maximize instructional time once the year is underway.
4. Make contact with your school and teachers. This could be a simple email to say hello and ask, “how are you?” We rarely get those kinds of messages, and they sure fill our buckets and keep us inspired! You or your child inevitably have some basic or maybe burning questions. Call, email, or stop by to get them answered. You’ll be that much more ready to jump into learning when you have your logistical questions and random curiosities satisfied.
5. Attend all of the back-to-school events and activities. We have a picnic, Dolphin Day, a BBQ, and a series of informational meetings during the first few weeks of class. Go to all of them, even if you’ve gone for the last 8 years! On the most basic level, you’re modeling engagement and community participation for your child. These events are designed to help ease you (and the school) into changes, big and small. And success in school is all about building strong relationships. The year will get busy and go by fast. Make the effort to take advantage of these opportunities to shake hands, enjoy each other’s company, and establish or re-establish your partnership with your teachers.
6. Do some academic review and activities, and make it fun. My six-year-old son and I took a final camping trip before school starts. We used the packing list for some literacy review: we made the list together with pen and paper, sounded out words, practiced writing them, went one item at a time, organized and packed together. After Soundview’s cooking camp, our kids have been cooking and baking on their own. Lots of practice with fractions and following directions. Next up is library day!
In the comments below, share any strategies that your family finds useful to make a smoother and more successful transition for your children from summer back to school.