It’s that time of year again! Summer feels like it flew by (unless you were home with your kids all summer in which case it may have slowly dragged by) and it’s time to beat the crowds and try to snatch up school supplies before they’re all sold out. It’s also time to start dragging your kid out of bed in the morning and forcing them to finish homework that you don’t understand…or is it? These tips may help make your family’s transition from summer to the school year a little bit easier!
- Let your child pick out their own school supplies as well as some for their classroom. Some children get very excited for the start of the school year and some dread it. Regardless of your child’s feelings about school starting, allowing them to pick out their own school supplies will help to increase positive feelings about the start of the school year. Sometimes it can be tough to give your child full control over the bigger items, such as a backpack. If you find yourself wanting to choose things yourself you can narrow down the choices and allow your child to choose from your curated selection in order to still give them some control. Back to school shopping can even turn into a fun game by bringing your child’s school list to the store and having your child help to read, count, and keep track of the supplies while shopping. In addition to allowing your child to pick out their own supplies, suggest that they pick something out for the teacher or entire class. Bringing some “presents” to others on the first day of school will make your child feel proud and connected to their class.
- Allow your child to keep at least one extracurricular activity or class from summer. Switching from summer mode to school mode can be difficult for a multitude of reasons, including going from all fun activities to a day filled largely with school, which not all children consider fun. Keeping at least one extracurricular from summer will give your child something to look forward to each week. It will help your child with the transition to know that they didn’t have to give up all of their fun!
- Spend time outside. Summer is often filled with the playground, beach trips, swimming pools, and splash pads. All of these activities have something in common – they take place outdoors. Spending time outdoors is beneficial to kids for many reasons, including getting an opportunity to move their bodies and soaking up mood-boosting Vitamin D from the sun. Going from a summer full of movement and Vitamin D to sitting at a desk inside for most of the day can be a difficult change. Allow your child time outside either before or after school so that they can continue to burn energy and get Vitamin D. It will soon start to get dark earlier, so doing this while you still can is important! consider signing up for many of the outdoor classes offered.
- Limit homework. You’ve probably seen online or heard in-person conversations about the increasing homework load for children of all ages. Research that demonstrates the benefits of homework continues to lack, and it’s been suggested that time spent playing, such as during extracurricular classes and activities, has more benefits for children than homework. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to cut out homework completely as your child’s teacher probably won’t be willing to excuse your child. Instead of cutting it out completely, consider finding a balance that works for your family. The balance should ensure that your child does an amount of homework that feels sufficient to you, but also allows your child both free and structured playtime and does not cause your child to feel burnt out on school. A good rule of thumb to consider is 10 minutes per grade. This rule would mean that a 2nd grader completes 20 minutes of homework every night and a 5th grader competes 50 minutes. This time can consist of both homework and independent reading, which many schools require. Keeping this time frame consistent will help your child understand what is expected of them each night and may help with the dreaded “homework battle”. You can set a timer and as long as your child is working the whole time, whatever they don’t finish in that time period goes back to school incomplete. You can give your child’s teacher a heads up at the beginning of the school year to explain your household’s time limit and the reasoning behind it so they know why work may sometimes be incomplete.
- Maintain a consistent wake-up time and bedtime. One aspect of the transition from summer to the school year that can be difficult is waking up earlier. This can be tough for both kids and parents, and creates extra stress in the morning which no one needs! The best way to combat this issue is to maintain a consistent wake-up and bedtime every day of the week, including weekends. When deciding on a schedule it is important you ensure that your child is getting enough sleep for their age. If your child is getting enough sleep for their age and you keep their sleep schedule consistent every day of the week mornings should slowly get easier for everyone.
We hope these tips help – happy back to school!
Kelsey Helgesen is a pediatric occupational therapist in New York City. She graduated with a master’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of Southern California and has provided both school-based and home-based early intervention occupational therapy services. Kelsey is currently a doctoral student at Fielding Graduate University where she is studying Infant and Early Childhood Development. She is particularly interested in childhood trauma and its relationship to sensory processing. Kelsey is also a foster mother caring for one to two children at any given time.