by Rebecca Stanisic
After the excitement of the new school year settles, and the routine of the daily get-up-and-go sets in, you may find your children aren’t as excited about school as they were at the end of August. I know; I’ve been there. My eldest, especially, has had to adjust and readjust each school year. The transition has gotten easier as he’s gotten older, but I remember how difficult it was when he suddenly didn’t want to go to school. I’ve discovered a few things over the years that will hopefully help you if your child is experiencing a stressful school transition.
For starters, I’ve learned it’s not necessarily the first day of school when the signs of hesitation begin. The early days and weeks are exciting for the entire family. Dinner table conversations are about new classmates and schedules. Older kids may feel a sense of pride at being the leaders in the school, or having a locker for the first time. But when the newness wanes, kids may feel like they’re missing something. They suddenly don’t love the thought of getting up with an alarm every morning, getting dressed early and out the door for school. Maybe their first experience of learning at a desk feels anticlimactic after the free play that kindergarten offered. Or maybe their first quiz or test causes them to realize it’s not all fun and games, and they are worried about the results. Watch for these signs to start appearing towards the end of September. Kids may suddenly lose that pep in their step in the morning, take longer to get ready, or complain about not feeling well.
The next transition points I’ve noticed are long weekends and extended days off. PD Days, Thanksgiving, and the extended Christmas break can disrupt positive routines. For us, extended holiday breaks have served to remind the kids that they enjoy their at-home routine, especially if there’s some anxiety about school. We’ve found the best way around this time is to keep the bedtime schedule on track during the holidays and let them enjoy the downtime. Then, when it’s time to head back to the classroom, we just start up the school routine again. We try not to dwell on when school is back in session.
A lot of my children’s concerns about school have been alleviated with the help of their teachers. We speak with the teachers about what’s working, such as school drop o or moments in class, and about when we’ve noticed school anxiety. Keeping an open line of communication with teachers is crucial.
Sometimes, preparation helps with the school transition. is may have started in the summer, but it’s not too late to make things easier. Work with your children to make sure they can put on their shoes, zip their jackets, and open their own lunch containers. When they know how to do this, they’ll feel less worried about awkward moments with peers.
Another way to help with the school transition is to discuss it. If you’re wondering how to get answers beyond ‘yup’ and ‘good,’ you’re not alone. Trust me, even as my kids have gotten older there are days when they clam up. But one trick that has helped me is to nd out the names of other kids in the class, so I can speci cally ask questions about who they may be sitting with at lunch or playing with at recess. I’ve also found that asking them to tell me about their favourite parts of the day or about something funny that happened helps to get the conversation started. The more we keep the lines of communication open, the easier it is for the kids to mention when something is bothering them.
Finally, school transitions can be tough. While some children may bounce off to school like it’s a second home, others may feel worried or uncomfortable. The reasons vary. Maybe they just miss home, or maybe there’s a problem. It’s well worth taking the time to talk to your kids and their teachers to find out, now that we’re past all the back-to-school excitement.
My kids enjoy going to school these days. And while they may love summer vacation and other days off, they’ve discovered there are ways to enjoy both. Hopefully that will be the case for your family too. ◆