As we say goodbye to summer and hello to a new school year. Our kids are facing different classes, teachers, friends, and schedules. While this anticipated transition is a rite of passage, it can also be a time of great stress and anxiety for our sons and daughters as they get back into new routines. It’s completely normal for all children to feel some first day jitters, but for kids who are on the spectrum, this time can be especially difficult.
To help put this into perspective, we need to consider the fact that everyday we have an average of 50,000 thoughts. That’s a lot of brain activity, but it might shock many of us to realize up to 70 percent of our inner voice is negative. This mental chatter can easily lead our boys and girls to suffer and fear going back to school. Thankfully, as parents, we aren’t completely helpless as our kids dust off their reading skills and lunchboxes. With a little awareness and proactive thinking, we can help our children ease back into school.
Scroll through the following ten suggestions to help elementary students manage back to school stress and routines:
Practice writing and reading. On average, most kids lose 2 months of reading skills over the course of a summer. By encouraging our boys and girls to pick up a few books and keep writing before the first day, we can send them back confident and ready to learn.
Start routines early. For many kids, summertime is blissfully unstructured. However, it is important to ease into the routines early for the upcoming year. We need to be consistent and predictable with new bedtimes and wake-up times a few weeks before the first bell rings to prevent unneeded stress, tantrums, and anxiety by ensuring they aren’t exhausted the first few days.
Visit with the teacher and tour the school. The fear of the unknown can cause a lot of stress. Take advantage of open houses or registration dates to familiarize our students with the classroom, school, and teacher. Spending a few minutes exploring the hallways, lunchroom, bathrooms, and meeting the faculty can empower a child.
Get organized. Being unorganized can wreak havoc on early mornings and routines. Spending a few minutes setting up homework areas, device charging stations, matching clothes, and laying out school supplies in advance can prevent chaotic mornings. Another tactic to keep in our arsenal is to prepare backpacks, lunches, and clothes the night before.
Ensure they get enough sleep. According to a study reported in the Harvard Gazette, there is a correlation between sleep deprived children and higher risks of poor neurobehavioral functions. These side effects can range anywhere from attention, memory, problem-solving, cognitive, and behavioral issues. Experts recommend kids between the ages of 5 and 12 need around 11 hours of shut-eye each night. By tucking the kids in early every night, we can reduce the likelihood of meltdowns.
Encourage time to unwind and relax. Kids need time to play, breathe, and think. Avoid over scheduling and limit technology use to promote down time. Encourage kids to read, meditate, exercise, play, or journal to cope with everyday stress that accompanies back to school.
Allow kids to help with the back to school shopping. This gives children a hands-on experience and gives them a voice in the process. As we scoop sales, encourage a discussion about the upcoming year, what to expect, and the activities they might do with their new scissors, crayons, or markers. By including our kids, we are helping them accept the upcoming transition and look forward to the school year.
Use books and media to model social skills. New situations can be frightening for many children, especially those in elementary school. Books, movies, songs, and cartoons often allow kids to vicariously watch and observe characters react to situations like bullying, making new friends, going to a new school, or riding the bus. By using media, we can give our kids a solid foundation for handling a wide array of experiences in a safe setting.
Role play. Children often worry about not seeing their friends over the summer or being in a different class than their BFF. Avoid letting their social skills go rusty over the summer to prevent some of this anxiety. Take opportunities to practice eye contact, introduce themselves, carrying a conversation, and ways to make friends.
Be positive! We are our children’s first role models and how we frame education will ultimately influence their attitudes. Set them up for success by being careful how we talk about school, teachers, classmates, administration, and more. We don’t want to add any more negativity to their thoughts for them to worry about.
How do you help elementary students manage back to school stress and routines?