Today's guest blogger is Lauren Napolitano, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist on staff at Bryn Mawr Hospital and in private practice in Bryn Mawr.
Summer is winding down and it's time to start thinking about sending our kids back to school. Getting back into the school routine is a shift from the lazy days of summer for the entire family. It entails different bed times, different wake times, and possibly different meal times. Rather than expecting your family to adjust to the school routine overnight, it's best to implement gradual changes over the course of time.
I recommend a multi-stage system for shifting into a back-to-school mindset:
1. Hang two large calendars in the kitchen for the months of August and September. Clearly mark all days leading up to school as well as the start of school. This will help everyone in the family begin to pace themselves for re-entry into back-to-school mode.
2. Make a list of the tasks to be accomplished between now and the first day of school. Examples would be: haircuts, clothing shopping, school supplies shopping, ordering new eyeglasses, getting a new tennis racket, getting health forms signed, etc.
3. Start scheduling each task from the list. For example, write on the calendar 'clothing shopping and haircuts' or 'buy new sneakers and pick up health form from pediatrician's office.'
4. Pick a date, preferably one week before the start of school, where the bed time and wake time for the family will begin to shift to the school schedule. On each day leading up to school, write down what the expected bed time and wake time will be for that day. Shifting in fifteen increments tends to work best.
5. After planning out this system for shifting the family into back to school mode, walk your kids and spouse through the calendar and list of events. Chances are they will have questions and additions to the list.
The key feature of this approach is that it allows for a gradual shift from the relaxed tempo of summer into the more task-oriented rhythm of the fall. Most children experience both anxiety and excitement about attending school in the fall. By implementing a well-designed approach to preparing for the school year, we enable our kids to feel confident that they will be ready to start the new year.
Here are some additional resources to help:
1. Back to School Transitions: Tips for Parents by the National Association of School Psychologists
2. Helping Your Child Cope with Back to School Anxiety from AnxietyBC
3. 9 Ways to Make a Child's Bed Time Easy from WebMD