Back to School Transitions
With summer just starting, the approaching school year seems far out of reach. Students are enjoying the break from the classroom in full force. However, it seems to happen every year where the new academic year creeps up on you and the scrambling for school supplies, meeting the new teachers, and that difficult adjustment back into the school grind. And each year seems harder and harder to motivate your children switch back to the student mindset.
If you have a kiddo that has difficulty with the transition from the end of summer to the beginning of the school year, you may notice a few things.
Avoidance is a huge indicator for a child’s difficulty related to end of summer transition. You may notice your child changing the subject any time school comes in conversation. Or maybe they show you nonverbally that they are not ready; such as crossing their arms, not making eye contact, rocking their body, or even in their facial expressions.
A child can experience more irritability or behavioral reactions when having difficulty accepting that the new school year is approaching. Keep in mind that children show their emotions through their behaviors and play. This can be seen as defiance in some instances, but it could also be a student that is having trouble regulating their anxieties related to the school year.
Separation anxiety can play a role with school phobia/refusal. The idea of being away from the comforts of a child’s family support system can cause stress, a sense of panic or even somatic symptoms like stomachache, dizziness, or headache. A child can be so overwhelmed by their anxiety that they will not want to leave the parent’s side. This puts not only the kiddo, but the parents in a difficult position. A lot of times parents then feel guilty leaving their upset child at school. This anxiety doesn’t always start on the first day of school, but could be weeks beforehand when the first sign of the school year comes to the child’s attention.
You do not need to wait until the end of summer to approach school phobia! Integrating some tools throughout the summer can make the transition into the school year smoother for not only the young student, but also the parents! Below are some strategies to consider.
Consider Their Sleep Schedule
It is common for a child’s sleep to completely change in the summer. One of the first changes that parents think of when addressing the new school year is getting the child’s sleep schedule back on track. For a child that has anxieties towards school, having to change their sleep routine right before the first day of class can be overwhelming. Addressing a child’s sleep ahead of time can help make the academic switch easier. That last month of summer can be the adjustment period back to earlier bed and wake up times.
Continue the Learning
A young person’s mind does not simply “turn off” in the summer. Summer is the perfect opportunity to explore a child’s curiosity and brain muscles in a more creative way beyond a classroom. Take your kiddo to a children’s museum or an aquarium! These settings typically have programs or stations that are perfect for expanding young minds in a fun environment. A routine trip to the local library where your child has the power to choose what they want to research and learn over the summer can also help set the scene for learning.
Practice Communication and Regulation Skills
A part of a child’s frustration with shifting from summer to the fall school semester is the feeling of not having a choice or being forced out of summer. Although we cannot change the timeframe of summer, we can redirect the focus on how the child can communicate their feelings as well as how they can cope with these frustrations in a healthy way. Every person has the right to experience whatever feeling they have, including children. By giving them the space and opportunity to express what they need can give a child a sense of control. An example of this could be a child that is “acting out” because they are upset that school is approaching soon. By simply acknowledging their feelings and providing a space to sort it out in a healthy way can not only deescalate the behaviors, but also give the child tools to help coping with the transition.