Two school age girls wearing backpacks and waving going into school at the end of summer

Transitioning Students from Summer Mode to School Mode

Is there a painless way to make this transition?

Getting into (or getting back into) the school routine may be a challenge. Everything from sleep routines to enthusiasm levels can be affected. But there are some things that you can focus on that helps the transition back to school mode happen.

Be on the alert, so you can help your center’s parents in the transition their families are making back to school day routines.

Helping children transition back into school mode helps them to start the new school year on a bright and less harried note.

Some of this preparation is common sense …

Children need to start getting into bed earlier so that the earlier awakening time isn’t a shock when it actually has to start. Clothing selections should be made and the book bag checked for necessities the night before so that the morning isn’t thrown into chaos by indecision and last minute searching.

The children who appear tired or a little out of sorts for the first few days may need your help – and compassion – so that their transition is less stressful.

There are lots of other tips that help transitioning families.

Preparation should start early enough. It may be too late this year for parents to get an early start, but it is good advice to have on hand for next year. Getting started as early as possible helps establish or re-establish the details of the routine.

Encourage your new students (and even the returning ones) to come by the office so they can meet you and the rest of the front office folks and their teacher. Included in this visit should be a tour of your center. This allows children to begin to get comfortable with new surroundings and to see new things that will become familiar to them as school days begin. It’s a good idea to help them find all of the areas of your center that they will be using as students – including bathrooms, the lunchroom and the library. This may be a good activity to do – even after the first few days have passed. Anything you can do to ease their anxiety and increase their comfort level with their new situation moves them in a positive direction.

Another piece of good advice is for parents to familiarize children with the route to your center. If they are bus riders, parents should reinforce what their bus looks like, its number and their drop-off and pick-up points. Even if the first days are past, their familiarity with these things will help them reach their comfort zone more quickly.

Be consistent on what time they are to get up on school days. This makes bedtime easier too. Most experts agree that children should get between 9 and 10 hours of sleep each night to be at their best. Help children to understand this by explaining the importance of a good night’s sleep: During sleep is when the body heals itself. Getting enough sleep helps them to stay awake and energetic during school. A good night’s sleep helps them focus on what they are doing and to be less cranky and better company to others during the day.

Encourage parents to plan their day, too. Are there doctor’s appointments to meet? Are their errands to run before children get home? Are there any preparations that they can make that will help their child’s preparation for the next day? The calmer and less harried their school nights are, the better their school days will be.

Create a School Information file for each child (if they’ve not done this already). Weed out last year’s information from any existing folders so there is no confusing starting the new year. Handling this information on a daily basis will help ensure that nothing is missed. It may even be a good idea to tab items as To-Dos and To-Files.

Establish a homework area. For younger children, the kitchen or dining room table might work if they need help from parents. For older children, a desk in their room is better for concentration.

Keep school supplies close to homework area. Whether in a credenza, closet or in the child’s desk, make sure that extra supplies are close to where they will be working so getting what they need will have the potential for fewer distractions.

Label things. Encourage parents to use a personal labeler to label coats, backpacks, pencil cases and binders that their children will take to school each day so keeping up with their own items is easier.

Identify the child’s best homework time. This can be done during the first week of school. Some children want to get their homework done as soon as they get home but others may need a little decompression time and have a better homework attitude after dinner.

Establish the morning routine. This is something that could be started before the year actually starts and tweaked after it’s actually happening. Sometimes posting an agenda helps. For non-readers use a pictogram. Get dressed, make bed, eat breakfast, brush teeth.

The Family Calendar. These are great items to post in the family kitchen. Everyone passes by it in the morning and evening and should be in the know on the day’s and week’s events. It also provides a place to mark days when there are special needs.

Don’t save every little thing. Tests instead of seat work. Artwork can be kept in a drawer in the child’s desk with special pieces highlighted on a bulletin board or refrigerator.

Make calendars for long term projects. This will help the parent and the child to see what is missing for the project and where they are in the process. It can be coordinated with the family calendar so project activities aren’t planned at the same time as other activities.

Special class list. It’s a great idea to post a weekly schedule for special classes that children participate in. Post them in each child’s room so they know what is coming up. They may need to take sneakers for gym on Monday or wear an older shirt on Wednesday for art.

Age Group Needs

Sometimes different age groups have specific needs. These age group specific tips may not apply to all of your parents, but will help those with children in your center and in the older age groups.

Parents with children ages birth to 5

  • Keep young children on the same daily routine (if possible) whether they’re going to preschool or not. This helps to keep their energy and moods at an even keel.
  • Teach your kids the differences between days. Many get confused as to why they go to child care five days a week and then stay home for two. Take a calendar and have them mark off the days. Consider color-coding the days so that “yellow” days mean preschool or child care and “orange” days mean home days.
  • Talk about the importance of “home time” and “school time” so that kids see the value in both (or talk about the importance of “play time” and “work time”).

Parents with children ages 6 to 9

  • Help your child look forward to school. Purchase a “lucky pencil” or “lucky folder” for her to keep track of homework. Be enthusiastic about school. Your excitement will often rub off on her.
  • Be honest about the fatigue that can happen during the first week back to school after a long break. Encourage your child to take a short nap after school, if needed.
  • Talk about the benefits of summer breaks and the benefits of going to school. For example, it’s fun to choose what you want to do during breaks. It’s also exciting to learn new things and meet new kids at school.

Parents with children ages 10 to 15

  • Don’t be surprised if you find that your child strongly resists going back to school. That’s normal. Many kids at this age love spending time with friends and would prefer to hang out with them outside of school. At the same time, other kids really look forward to going back to school.
  • Help your child name what he likes best about school. Even if it starts out only with lunch and recess, go with that. As the school year progresses, see which subjects begin to interest him.
  • Admit that some parts of school are hard. If you didn’t enjoy the junior high or middle school years, say so. But then talk about how much better high school is. That often helps kids to stick with the hard stuff.

Parents with children ages 16 to 18

  • As older teens become more independent, they may become more resistant to school. Continue to emphasize how important a high school education is—and why. Show teens that the more education they acquire, the more money they make. See the chart on page 2 of the U.S. Census Bureau report “The Big Payoff.”
  • Focus on the parts of school your teen enjoys. Remind her of the soccer team, the newspaper staff, the choir, or another activity that she gets excited about.
  • Help your older teenager apply for a part-time job, apply to a college, or prepare for college-required tests (such as the ACT or SAT). Older teenagers can get overwhelmed or paralyzed in doing some of these new, important tasks. Your guidance can be a big help.
  • Encourage your teen to connect with teachers that he likes. Having a good rapport with a teacher not only makes high school more interesting, but these teachers can also be helpful in writing job, college, and scholarship recommendations.
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