Did you say August: August already! Teachers, parents, kids we all know what that means: back to school is just around the corner, which also means getting back into routine. There are numerous benefits for everyone involved when a routine is planned, established and maintained. Of course expect the usual protest and resistance but research confirms a balanced routine diminishes stress and anxiety for children of all ages and for grown ups too. So, here are a few simple tips to help ease everyone into the reality of back to school mode.
1. Announce – make it known loud and clear by mentioning it in your conversations and interactions. Talk about it with your kids choosing a time and space such as the breakfast table or at bedtime. Regardless of age, from 4 to 18 years old, this opens a healthy dialogue and gives your children a chance to voice their thoughts and emotions on the topic. It creates opportunities to debunk any fear or anxious thoughts.
2. Participation – participate together in preparing a visual schedule (using a white board or calendar) that is age appropriate. Kids do well when invited to participate in designing a structure they will later be required to follow. Remind them it might need adjusting after the first week of school or even later in the fall season.
3. Practice run – practice run anything and everything about the school routine. One of my best suggestions for parents with children in elementary school is to begin by practising for school lunches and snacks. Why not set aside a few days before school where lunches are served in a lunch box, packaged the same way you would send them to school. For the younger ones this gives you a chance to observe what works for them. Can they open their yogourt, open their juice or even peel a banana. You would be surprised what comes back home untouched because little hands couldn’t manage something as simple as peeling a banana. Think of making a tiny cut at the top so little hands can crack that peel open!
4. Visit the school area – whether it’s a new school or the same stomping grounds as last year, it is always helpful to visit the school. This gives children a real hands on experience before heading back to class,and for new students, a place they can identify with: this is my school
5. Plan your shopping adventures – of course, back-to-school also means shopping for new things. Review and assess what you already have, discuss what is needed, make a must have list and then a ‘maybe, we’ll see’ wish list. Talk about budget with your kids and invite them to participate in the process.
These simple steps can debunk some of the unknown and ease the transition from the schedule-free summer days to a September routine. Plus, for your kids, participating to the process of planning a routine not only boost your children’s confidence, it helps them feel more secure about their little world and the new school year they are about to step into.