Back to School Transition For Families

By Jan Roberts

Parents and children alike often have mixed feelings as carefree summer ends and the fall academic year is launched with a bang. Those "school days, school days, good ole golden rule days" are back again, requiring more disciplined routines.

Parents can get the school year off on a positive note by carefully organizing family routines that help children develop habits for success. Children need this structure.

Fresh Start For Children

Although many children resist giving up fun-filled summer days, they are excited to shop for the newest in-style school duds, pristine notebooks, and the coolest lunch box of the season.

For children who have struggled academically or socially the previous school year, it's a time for fresh beginnings with a different teacher and renewed friendships. Everyone gets to start over with a clean slate!

By the end of the first or second week, however, the excitement begins to butt heads with reality. Children eventually realize that school is not just about new stuff - it's also about less freedom, disciplined schedules, academic challenges and . . . homework.

Family Transitions Take Energy

Any transition from one season to the next has an effect on the family unit, requiring physical and emotional energy. Relaxed summer evenings are fading, replaced by more serious endeavors; lunches to prepare, forms to complete, homework to check. Now a different bedtime routine kicks in, with favorite TV programs denied and earlier tuck-ins required. Resistance reigns.

With body clocks knocked off kilter, it is common for family members to be irritable and short with one another. Crying is common with younger children who are frustrated, and sibling rivalry rears its ugly head about now. An extra measure of patience is required while everyone settles into a smoother rhythm.

Parents Bring Solid Guidance

For most parents, getting back into a more predictable family routine in the fall is timely and welcome. However, parental guidance during this back to school adjustment period (2-3 weeks) is crucial for children. With intentionality, parents can establish a specific routine that will produce positive patterns for their children.

During this interval, parents must bring their best selves to the table: compassionate listening, reassuring problem solving, household organization, nutritious meals, rule reinforcement, and a calm, in-charge demeanor. This is a big order for parents, but the results are worth it.

By carefully listening to their children's school related concerns, parents can then guide them with positive problem-solving strategies. Children are greatly encouraged by parents who take them seriously and are advocates for their academic and social adjustment.

Practical Parenting Pointers:

1. Call a family meeting to explain new school routines, bedtimes, etc.
2. Start a family calendar of events, using a different color for each family member.
3. Invite children to share "peaks and pits" of their school day at dinnertime. Encourage
expression of feelings.
4. Help children lay clothes out for the next school day.
5. Pack lunches the night before. Backpacks can be readied by the front door for a fast
morning getaway.
6. Give choices for healthy breakfast fare. Occasional heart shaped pancakes may give
the day a needed lift.
7. Plan a fun event on the weekend to relieve stress and encourage camaraderie and a
positive attitude within the family unit.

About the Author:

Jan Roberts teaches weekly parenting classes, coaches parents individually, and writes a weekly newspaper column, "The Parent Coach".