As we are gearing up for a new school year, there are strategies that we parents can use to help our children transition seamlessly back into the school routine.
Re-establish a morning routine
Discuss what the morning routine will look like during the school year. Keep your routine simple.
Consider putting a picture schedule in a highly visible place in the home to serve as a visual guide.
Prepare materials, such as backpack, shoes, socks, uniform, library books, etc., the night before, and put them in a logical, easy-to-access location.
Re-establish a routine of eating breakfast at the dining table, if necessary. Having an established morning routine is a key component to reducing stress and disorganization during the school week.
Re-establish a bedtime routine
Again, set clear expectations, and simple step-by-step instructions. Do not deviate from the routine. Children ages 3 to 5 need between 10 to 13 hours of sleep (including naps).
You may need to slowly re-establish routines, and your child may need a few days to refamiliarize themselves with the schedule.
If your child is currently going to bed quite late, consider bumping bedtime up 15 minutes earlier each night in the week(s) leading up to school.
Slowly start to scale back electronics, if necessary. Electronics include access to iPad, TV, gaming systems, and the phone. A general rule of thumb is to limit non-productive/non-educational screen time to a maximum of 60 minutes per day.
Turn off screens 30-60 minutes before bedtime, as there is research that suggests that use of screens suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, which then delays your body’s natural circadian rhythm (i.e., internal clock).
Do not allow use of screens and electronics in the bedroom.
Empathy and calm
It will take time for your child to become comfortable once again with the regular school routine. Have a tone of excitement about school. Stay positive, but also be empathetic if your child voices negative emotions about the return to school. Validate their concerns.
At the same time, stay calm. Young children tend to pick up on and mirror the feelings, emotions, and attitudes of the adults around them.
Praise your child for their independence, organization, and self-management skills when you see him/her staying on task and following the routine.
Trust the teachers
Remember that teachers are calm, experienced individuals who have been around the back-to-school block many times. Teachers have amassed a bag of tricks and various tools over the years to help your child adjust quickly and painlessly to the academic environment. Partner with the teachers and follow their lead to help create positive support systems, home environment, and learning environment for your child. Remember, preschool children thrive on predictability, routine, and structure. This is particularly true this year, as the world continues to be rocked by uncertainty.
Parents play an important role in partnering with the school to do their best to create a safe, nurturing, calm, predictable environment at home that mirrors the loving and structured school environment so that our children can play, learn, grow, and thrive!