Back to School – Tips for An Easy Transition!

It’s hard to believe it’s already that time of year again! The lazy, hazy days of summer are coming to an end and a new school year is dawning.

For moms and dads, this is often a happy time as they are weary after having the kids at home all summer. Most kids, however, are usually not happy about the end of their summer fun. The beginning of a new year can be a hard adjustment for some kiddos or a simple transition for others.

Getting back into a school routine or at least a more consistent one is tough, but can sure make a difference in the way your child adjusts to the new year. Soon, the nights of staying up a little later, sleeping in a bit longer and all manner of summer fun will be a thing of the past. Here a some ways to make the transition easier:

  • Consider easing back into your school routine by beginning about two to three weeks before school kicks off.
  • Gradually begin to tweak your bedtime schedule so that everyone is getting to bed earlier. Equally as important is waking up earlier in the mornings.
  • Teach them to be organized and make decisions about their clothes the night before. This translates to less stress in the mornings.
  • Give them opportunities to be independent and responsible. Set them up for success by giving them responsibilities at home so they can experience what it is like. For example, you might make it their responsibility to pack their backpacks and lunchbox.
  • If a new school is on the horizon this year, a peek inside might help allay any anxiety your child is having. Go to the building and let them see where they will be going each day.
  • Implement a daily homework routine. Whether that is immediately after school, after their snack and a little downtime, or even after dinner for teens, having a set time established helps everybody.
  • Prepare them for the separation from you, particularly if this is their first year to attend school or if you have an anxious child. Let them know what the morning drop off will look like. Be specific. “I’ll be able to walk you into your classroom the first week of school and after that, I’ll drop you off in the carpool line.”
  • We set the tone for the family. Get enough rest and get up early enough so that you aren’t rushed. Allow time for the unexpected.

Kids take their cues from us. If we are excited about the new year and happy with their teacher, chances are they will be too. If we’re anxious and worried that they might not be in the class with their best friend, worried that they might get lost trying to get to their classes on time with all of their materials or unhappy because they didn’t get the teacher we wanted, they will probably unhappy be too.

Hoping your family gets an A+ on this transition into another year of school!

Family Spotlight: Wendy Stem

In the spring of 2011, after our older daughter Abigail had started second grade, she began experiencing frequent stomach aches. They would usually come in the evening around dinner time, she would become flushed in the face and just need to lie down. After six months of doctor’s visits that included everything from strep throat to allergy tests and even an endoscopy, the stomach aches went away.

Parenting With Amy

Six months later, our younger daughter Sarah, shortly after starting first grade, began experiencing the same symptoms. Unfortunately, Sarah’s were more intense. She had stomach aches, cramping, and painful constipation. She became fearful of several things including being sick, going to school, and being by herself. There was a lot of crying, a lot of screaming, and several trips to the pediatrician’s office. After testing for a few things, it was becoming clear that Sarah was on the same path that Abigail had been on. Fortunately, this time around, our pediatrician recommended visiting with Amy to investigate the possibility of Sarah’s symptoms being related to anxiety.

During our first visit with Amy, she assured me that all of Sarah’s symptoms, while they could be something physical, aligned with a child feeling anxiety. Because Sarah is very verbal, often times we feel like we can reason with her and explain situations, but trying to explain Sarah’s anxiety to her and tell her the “right” way to view it was clearly not helping. Amy has helped us better understand the viewpoint of the anxious child. She has helped us learn how to talk with Sarah in such a way as to acknowledge what she is feeling, to help Sarah feel validated in what she is feeling, instead of feeling differently or wrong about it. The following spring, Sarah was doing very well in her first grade class.

It was late that same spring that we had a huge family change – we decided to take an assignment overseas with my husband’s company. We all felt nervous but very excited. We were busy with plans, selling our home and getting ready to move in August when we were delayed by an indefinite amount of time while we waited on immigration paperwork. We moved into a small apartment that was fun for the first week, but the reality of leaving our home, our neighborhood, friends and routine soon hit. We were all grieving, not sure how long we would be in this apartment and not sure what our lives would look like when we moved overseas. It was an emotional, scary time.

We were all feeling quite uncertain about what we were doing, but it is Sarah who is somewhat of the “thermometer” in our household. She felt all of the insecurity and emotion intensely. We had crying and screaming fits, periods of deep sadness, even a period of time when Sarah did not want to get off of the couch to play.

I am so thankful we were able to reach out to Amy again. She was a neutral person with whom Sarah could talk, and who, according to Sarah has great dolls to play with! As her parents, we had this idea that we could just tell Sarah how to “fix” what she was feeling by doing something different, acting a certain way, or believing something specific. One of the most important things we have learned from Amy is how to validate our children and their feelings. Simply being able to listen to them and acknowledge what they are going through as being normal has given them a confidence to work through a lot of these anxious moments.

While nothing about our move overseas was easy, we have done it. Our first move was an amazing adventure, but definitely filled with moments to practice the skills we have learned from Amy! The adjustment continued to be filled with sadness, anxiety, and a little anger, but both girls started new schools overseas, made many new friends and enjoyed an amazing experience. We continue to face fears and anxiety, but with an openness to talk, acknowledge, and validate. We have learned to be aware of our stressors, to recognize what are reactions to anxiety and to reach out for help when we need it, all of which is an ongoing process.

Our girls are now entering seventh and fifth grades, and we have made another overseas move. We have faced the grief of leaving another home, the sadness of leaving friends and the anxiety of not knowing what the next months will be like. Sarah and Abigail have both felt this intensely and have had the same feelings manifest. However, they are beginning to recognize and verbalize how they are feeling, and we know we can work through it as a family. We are thankful for the skills we have learned from Amy, and thankful that we are able to continue to seek her guidance and resources!

Wendy Stem