Parenting educator and mindfulness expert Giselle Baumet shares her 8 tips for a smooth back to school transition as families everywhere gear up for the new school year!
Transitioning back to school as a kid was never easy for me. Shifting from a relaxed summer schedule to 6 AM wake up calls, packing lunches and catching school buses brings back memories of stress and overwhelm.
As adults, many of us have honed our skills for getting used to new routines. But as parents, we should remember that transitions take time for children, especially something as significant as a brand new teacher, new friends, new curriculum, a new schedule, and the rest of the changes that come with starting a new school year.
So, how do we help our children transition to make those changes as smoothly as possible?
Here are our 8 tips for a smooth back to school transition:
1. Start adjusting your child’s bedtime to match that during the school year.
We recommend bedtime of 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm for most school-age children under 6th grade, and start implementing this as early as three weeks before the first day of school! (Kids under 12 really need on average 9-12 hours of sleep every night!) If you don’t have three weeks, the adjustment will have to happen more quickly. One way of helping your children wind down is by incorporating some extra one-on-one time (see tip 6 below!).
2. Limit screen time before bedtime
If your child uses media (TV, tablets, phones, etc.), you’ll want to begin reducing the use of these gadgets at least one hour before bedtime and ideally two hours, as the blue light and stimulation affect the melatonin in the body, making it harder to fall asleep peacefully.
But, if your kiddos are like mine, you know it’ll be a tough battle if you take the screen away cold turkey while everyone is still on vacation mode. At my house, we simply move their screen time up (right after lunch break for instance) and reduce it from a movie to their favorite 25 minute TV show. The benefit? When school starts the screen time gets naturally eliminated. Voila! Win-win!
3. Get out and connect with nature as much as you can!
Connect with nature during the day and continue that through at least the first semester of the school year, as having a nature-based tradition that can continue through the school year helps ease the transition. If you’re short on time, it can be something as simple as a walk at your local park or some gardening.
Some of the benefits that nature offers a child are:
- Outdoor time improves sleep. (Hello melatonin!)
- It reduces stress and fatigue.
- It builds confidence and gives a child the power to control their actions.
- It increases movement, which helps with development and overall health.
- It provides a space for children to think and contemplate.
- Being in nature promotes creativity and imagination. Kids get the freedom to interact meaningfully with their surroundings.
- Nature teaches responsibility. For example, by entrusting children to take care of plants and flowers, they learn how important it is to water a plant as they come to know the consequences of not completing their task.
All of these benefits can also aid in a smoother back to school transition!
If you’re looking for more information and some nature activity ideas, check out our “Benefits of Nature for Children” article!
4. Routines are very grounding for children (and adults!)
Creating a soothing, calming morning or evening routine (it can be short!) that you do with your child creates that sense of stability as they transition into the school year.
Some ideas for routines to try in your own home:
- A short morning family movement or yoga session (Our family belts out a song/dance or two before getting into the car to start our day!)
- 5 minute morning affirmations (you can find some ideas in this article)
- An evening walk around the block
- Sharing your daily roses, buds, and thorns every evening at dinner or before bed.
- Playing a board game before bedtime
5. Use positive and validating words when speaking of school.
Words have power. You’ll want to use positive and validating words when speaking of school and their new changes while also offering a non-judgemental listening space for your child.
Here’s an example. If your child comes to you and says, “I hate school,” many of our first reactions would be something like, “Honey, you love school! You’ll be fine!”
Instead, try acknowledging this feeling and then trying to learn more. Child Life Specialist Lindsey O’ Sullivan offers this as an alternative response:
“I am so sorry to hear that you are disappointed in how school is going. Can I ask what happened with the teachers and your friends to make you feel that way?”
Validating your child’s emotions and feelings will make them feel heard – and get you a step closer to what’s really on their mind.
6. One-on-one time to decompress and unpack what has happened that day.
If you can, schedule some special one-on-one time with your child where you can do something they enjoy during at least the first few weeks of school. It can be something as involved as an art project or something as simple as reading their favorite book together!
7. Get together as a family for a meal (or two).
Dinner time as a family is a beautiful, evidence-based activity that brings you all together for connection, communication, and tradition. Make it a point to prioritize sit-down meals as a family, and if it can’t be dinner (due to extracurricular activities), then breakfast—or dessert! Find what works best for your family.
8. Hold space for everyone – including yourself!
During the first few weeks of school, allow yourself to be ok with both you and your child adjusting to the new changes. This might mean extra patience, flexibility, understanding, and acceptance that change looks different for each person, including yourself and your child!
There is no doubt that in a few weeks you’ll look back and see that this transition too, like many others, has come and gone. I hope these 8 tips for a smooth back to school transition were helpful to bring a little more calm and joy to you and your family. Please reach out to us with any questions, tips or comments.
You got this!
Giselle Baumet is a Certified Life Coach, positive parenting educator, herbalist, aromatherapist, hypnotherapist, mental health educator, and more. She is also a Piper + Enza expert contributor. Learn more about her work at gisellebaumet.com.