By Agnès Dupin, BSW, MSW, RSW – Child & Family Therapist
I have to confess about my conflicting feelings while writing this article: while I have to talk about planning, the importance of adjusting back your routine, preparing your child for a smooth transition…. the other part of me wants to talk about enjoying the present moment, not planning, just been here and now and savouring to the fullest. As a parent we have to find a balance between planning a smooth transition to school, and still enjoying/letting our children enjoy summer vacation.
So here is some advice on how to facilitate a smooth transition back to daycare or school:
Adjusting your routine:
Depending on your personal and family lifestyle, children’s need and age, moving back to a regular schedule for meals and sleep time might be very important.
If you know your child will lose it, have increased tantrums and be unhappy with not enough sleep, then you need to figure out what time they have to be in bed to have enough sleep and adjust your routine accordingly. A way to facilitate waking up earlier in the morning might be to plan fun activities in the morning. Nighttime routines are also important, you might need to cut on screen time and replace it with family fun games.
Facilitating children transition by:
- Discussing about back to school- what are you looking forward or not. Accepting that your child might not be all enthusiastic about it and validating her/his feelings.
- Modeling appropriate ways to express your feelings – children learn a lot by observing and listening. If you talk about your feelings about going back to work or else, what you might be looking forward or not. Also discussing what is going to help you with the difficult part (talking to a friend, going for a walk, etc).
- Getting ready for it – backpack and else; plan lunch (have the children be active participants in this from choosing the menu, going shopping and making meals); plan after school activities and play/fun time. Make sure to plan for lots of unstructured time during the week and the weekend.
- Visiting the school, passing by it, meeting the teacher, inviting some school friends over.
- Scheduling: if you like a visual schedule (your child might), creating a week’s schedule with colors and drawing (might be a fun art family project) is another nice support. For young children, it will help them visualized what is coming.
During the first few weeks
Plan to have extra time in the morning and in the evening, not to have to rush out or in:
- It might mean planning to be later at work and leaving early. If it is not possible for you, having other adults (parents, partners, significant other) share responsibilities for drop off and pick up.
- Plan to pick up your child early from after school program or day care. Not having to rush yourself and your child, going to the park, for a walk, etc., will help your family be more present in the moment together, and reduce the stress related to transition.
- Make sure that when you plan evening routine, you include a 15 to 30 minutes (or more when possible) of play/fun time. This is when you are present and in the moment with your child.
Back to school as any transition is an opportunity to learn to adjust and grow!