By Lexy Largent, Bridges to Growth

Whether your kids have only been out of school for summer or haven’t stepped foot in a school building for a whole year, the transition back to school can be challenging! Here are some suggestions to help smooth the way:

Re-establish a consistent sleep schedule.
My kids can’t be the only ones whose bedtime schedule has creeped further and further back…right? If your summer schedule is anything like ours, it involves a lot of enjoying the long, sunny days and not many early bedtimes. Start getting kids back on track about a week or two before school starts by slowly inching that bedtime closer and closer to your goal. By putting kids to bed about 15 minutes earlier each night, the transition is a little less painful.

Talk to them about how they’re feeling about going back to school.
Are your kids excited to go back? Nervous? Unsure? Are they worried about what this school year will be like? Open the conversation with them and give them space to share their feelings. Listen and help them think through the tools they have in their toolboxes to handle upcoming challenges.

Establish after school rules.
Help kids know what to expect for their afterschool time by discussing it up front. Have a family meeting and brainstorm together to make a plan of how you want afternoons and evenings to go. Make your expectations clear, but let them help you figure out how to make it fun! Remember, after a long day of being on their best behavior (hopefully!) they might need a little time to decompress before homework or other expectations.

Celebrate the end of the summer.
Celebrate the end of the season and look forward to the fresh start that the school year brings. Make a list of fun times you’ve had this summer, and talk about what they’re looking forward to at school. Make it special — have your end-of-summer celebration over ice cream sundaes, at a picnic at the park, or part of a special outing.

Use checklists to get out the door.
Tired of nagging? Help your kids learn independence by making a checklist of the steps to get ready for school. For younger kids, make a visual checklist, either with illustrations or photographs of your child getting dressed, brushing her teeth, eating breakfast, etc. Make this checklist ahead of time, and have a dry run. When they’ve done it successfully, make sure to celebrate!

Be flexible.
Remember that the transition back to school can be challenging! Kids are often exhausted and it’s not uncommon for kids to be cranky or have meltdowns after school for those first few weeks back. Remind yourself that it’s normal, give them space, and try doing some decompressing activities first thing after school. Have a snack and a drink ready, then try some calming sensory activities, like Play Doh or sand and water play, or fun physical activity, like a bike ride or playing tag at the park. Keep your sense of humor and remember that this too shall pass.

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