Is your back-to-school transition in trouble?

Transition from summertime to school time can be tricky to manage.

The transition to school can be difficult because it brings changes, challenges and new expectations. Photo credit: Pixabay.

The transition to school can be difficult because it brings changes, challenges and new expectations. Photo credit: Pixabay.

This past month, children returned to school after the summer recess and some parents, and children, may be struggling. All of our best laid plans about getting into the school routine and having a smooth transition from the freedom of summertime to the structure of fall have fallen flat.  You may be noticing changes in your child’s behavior, such as more frustration or crying; you may even feel like crying yourself! Michigan State University Extension will take a look at some reasons why this happens and what can be done about it.

One reason why the transition to school can be difficult, particularly for young children, is that every year brings changes, challenges and new expectations.  For young children and adolescents alike, adjusting to being in a large group of strangers can be emotionally draining.  It takes a lot of self-regulation to deal with all the new demands on the cognitive, social and emotional skills used at school.  The school day may be longer than the amount of time they are able to stay focused, especially if your school has reduced recess times.  Your child may be emotionally and cognitively overwhelmed.  Even though a new school year is fun, and it’s exciting to meet new friends and learn new things, excitement can also lead to feelings of stress and fatigue.

To help deal with the new demands, remember to slow down and stick with a schedule of activities at home.  Regular meals, rest times and relaxing activities might be best until your child is comfortable with the school routine.  This may not be the best time of year to plan a lot of extra family activities, start new sports or study programs if your child is struggling to adjust to the new school year.

Another reason why the beginning of the school year can be exhausting is that you and your child are establishing new relationships with your child’s teacher.  Sometimes it takes a few weeks for you to understand the teacher’s expectations for your child and your family, or communications from school may be confusing.  Don’t wait for the first conference to bring up your questions and concerns.  It is very beneficial for your student if you can work with the teacher and the school right from the beginning.  You might try introducing yourself to your child’s teacher, or re-introducing yourself after the first hectic day, calling the teacher at school, or by emailing them. Tips for getting involved in your child’s education suggests several ways that parents can build closer ties to their child’s classroom and school.

You may also want to consider you and your child’s temperament. Some people have a harder time adjusting to changes than others.  Maybe for you, your child or both of you, it is the act of changing your daily lives that causes discomfort and uneasiness.  In a world filled with constant change, “new” is not always so attractive.  It is not that your child does not like school, the new teacher or the new classroom, it may just be that the people and places are different than what they were used to.

If you or your child is uncomfortable with change, then patience is the by-word for you.  It may be better to stick with the routine you have recently established and avoid introducing anything else that is new.  Provide the same type of lunches and snacks often, don’t emphasize new school supplies or new clothes for school, and try to do the same things every day before and after school.  After a while, the new routine will become the one you are all comfortable with.  It is the repetition that creates a feeling of contentment – so give it some more time.

Finally, maybe your newly established school routine needs adjustment.  Take a close look at your daily lives and decide if the activities and how they are accomplished are the best fit for your family.  Make sure that your child’s nutrition, sleep, exercise and general health needs are being met.  Think about the household tasks you do to support your child’s success at school – are there changes that could be made to make things easier for everyone?  What about homework help?  Contact your school to find out about resources available to your family that will ease the strain of homework stress. 

Your child and your family are unique and dynamic.  That means that there is no one strategy that applies to all children and all families. But all families are adaptable and can change.  Find what is best for your family and stick with it.

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