Back to School Transition Tips

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It’s that time of year again - back to school season! Many kids (and parents, and educators) might be feeling that “end of summer bummer” feeling, and parents, kids, and teachers alike might be feeling the stress of jumping back into school mode! Changes in routines and responsibilities abound, and multiple adjustments can take a toll on mental health.This is especially true with the uncertainty of the pandemic. 

To make matters more stressful, for many students and educators, this may be the first year returning to in-person school since the pandemic started. For both neurotypical and neurodiverse individuals, the last year and a half has created many unprecedented stressors and changes. It’s understandable if you are feeling impatient, anxious, frustrated, and unsure about the start of this school year.

This is very true for parents as well. Maneuvering things like masks, hybrid learning, and a return to after school activities and busy weeks is not easy. Not to mention, the difficulty of managing your own anxiety while trying to help your kids adjust!

We've gathered some ideas for kids, parents, educators, and anyone else dealing with back-to-school blues, to help ease into the school year and start the year strong:

  1. Talk openly about worries, uncertainties, and frustrations. Practice planning to address anything that can be changed and let go/accept the things that cannot be changed.
  2. Chat with teachers, fellow parents, and professionals. Set up a plan for the transition, with all relevant hands on deck. Preparedness is the vaccine for anxiety!
  3. Transition slowly. Gradually move to earlier bedtimes. Prepare supplies. Slowly lower screen time/leisure time to help transition to school days and evenings doing some homework.
  4. Do keep screen time/leisure time as a wind-down, especially in the first couple of weeks after school begins. Keep after-school responsibilities to a minimum at first. As the year progresses, slowly move toward preferred time limits and responsibilities.
  5. Plan things to look forward to each week. For example, a favorite breakfast every Monday to start the week off on a positive note, a fun activity on Friday or the weekend to look forward to, and a mindful, present-moment centered activity on Sunday night to alleviate pre-Monday grouchiness.
  6. Allow for space and decompressing from social engagement after school each day. With the pandemic, our social batteries have changed quite a bit, and it may take time to adjust. Parents, don’t ask too many questions or push for too much information. Ask open ended questions and let your kids come to you, if possible.
  7. Reward successes and teach self-praise. Highlight accomplishments no matter how small, emotionally high-fiving things as simple as getting through a whole school day or remembering how to sit down for homework. Practice highlighting positive experiences/memories/accomplishments from each day.
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