Tips to Manage the Back to School Transition

No matter how the child feels about returning to school, you can help with the transition by doing a few simple things.

Summer flew by and it’s almost time for school. Some children are excited to meet new teachers and reconnect with friends. Others don’t like the school environment and want it to be summer forever. No matter how the child feels about returning to school, you can help with the transition by doing a few simple things.

Re-establish Routines

Beginning a couple of weeks before the first day of school, children should get adequate sleep, nutritious meals, and add a few academic activities. It is critical for learning that children get the recommended amount of sleep. If the child’s bedtime needs to be adjusted, begin early. Determine when the child needs to leave for school and back up to allow for dressing, brushing teeth meals, and other morning preparations. Set an alarm clock and let the child know they should get dressed and be at the breakfast table by a certain time. You may want to do this gradually if a significant change from the summer schedule is required.

Re-establishing routines isn’t just about sleep – making sure the children get accustomed to meals and snacks at certain times helps. Children like to know when they get to eat and their bodies function better on a set schedule. It is also important to add a few academic activities to the daily schedule to get reacquainted with homework. Interspersing lower energy activities such as reading, crafts, and puzzles with higher energy activities such as soccer, jump rope, and dancing helps the child can mimic the school experience.

Get the Necessary Supplies

It’s frustrating when you need something, and it isn’t available. With the mad rush for school supplies, it helps to start early. Some families make a big deal out of back to school shopping for new clothes. It can be a one on one with each child or an entire family shopping trip. Others simply buy new clothes when needed or just focus on one or two outfits to begin the school year. Either way, the first step should be to review the child’s wardrobe and determine what they already have int heir closet and drawers. Make sure to try things on – as clothes that fit at the end of the school year may no longer work. Some schools require uniforms or limit what children can wear – be sure and know the rules for your school. Don‘t just focus on outer clothes, be sure to check underwear, socks, and shoes.

Supply lists are often provided by the schools and it’s best to fill this list before the first day. Let the child accompany you and make age-appropriate choices for their supplies, lunchbox, and backpack. If the child will take their lunch – begin to discuss what they would like to have in their lunches and make sure you have the necessary containers and ice packs.

Learn the New Environment

Most schools have an orientation or other back to school activity prior to the first day of school. Meeting the teacher prior to the first day of school can alleviate a lot of the child’s anxiety, especially in younger children. The sooner the child and teacher can begin to build a relationship, the smoother the transition. If your school doesn’t provide this opportunity, be proactive. Most teachers are working a few days before school starts. Many of them will be open to a 15- or 20-minute meeting with you and your child. Of course, be mindful that there is a lot of work for teachers to prepare, so respect the time allocated – arrive on time and don’t linger.

If possible, take the child to their new classroom so they can get the ‘lay of the land’. They may not know which one their desk or seat will be, but they can see how the desks or tables and chairs are placed, where the teacher sits, where their backpack and lunchbox should go, and where books and other items are located. Also, walk the halls and point out the bathrooms, cafeteria, library or media center, and any other common spaces.

If the child will walk to school or be dropped off, take them to the doors they will use and show them how to get to their classroom. Also, let them know what to do after school – walk home or go to a designated area for pickup. If the child rides the bus, show them where the bus will drop them off in the morning, how to get to class, and where to wait for the bus at the end of the day.

Create Designated Areas

Looking for a shoe or lunchbox as you run out the door to catch a school bus is very stressful. Have a designated place in the home for everything the child needs as they walk out the door. Their backpack and shoes may be right by the door (along with their coat in colder weather). Their lunchbox may be in the refrigerator in a specific spot. Part of the child’s routine should be to gather these items in a timely manner, so they are not rushing at the last minute and begin their day by feeling behind.

Many children have homework. Families may differ on when homework should be done – some think children should play and ‘unwind’ before tackling more schoolwork while others feel the schoolwork should come before play. Working parents may not have a choice as their schedules are limited and homework time may occur right after dinner. No matter when the homework is done, there should be an area set aside for each child to complete their homework. Younger children may need adult monitoring, supervision, and encouragement so the best place may be a dining room table. Older children can typically work more independently and may have a desk in their room or in a quiet area in the house.

Be Positive and Encouraging

Children are often anxious about change. It’s okay if they are a little nervous about new experiences as this is normal. Parents and caregivers should acknowledge their feelings and model confidence and optimism.

Once a child adapts to the new routine and gets to know their teacher and new friends, the anxiousness should abate. If a child had an unfortunate experience the previous year (such as bullying or poor academic performance) and is concerned it will recur – discuss the concerns openly with the child and help them formulate ways to cope. If possible, talk to their teacher and/or other schools professional one on one and let them know of these concerns. Reassure the child that you are there to help them have a better experience.

Sometimes the first few days of school can be trying. Some children react negatively in the morning at drop off by crying or clinging to parents. Others get over-tired and over-stimulated resulting in crankiness and acting out at the end of the day. Parents and caregivers must not overreact. Always reassure the child that they are loved. If a child is clingy during drop-off, gently reassure them, give them a hug, and leave. Teachers are trained in methods to help children adjust and many children are fine the minute the parent is out of sight. Children who act out after they come home need to be reminded of the house rules and expected behaviors. Granting them a ‘pass’ because they are adjusting to school will usually result in bigger problems down the road. Let them know you care, but that there are expected behaviors.

Humans are creatures of habit and can struggle when adapting to change. While we may enjoy new experiences, we are generally anxious about routine changes. Transitioning to school is a great time to teach children discipline and coping skills as changes are inevitable. Transitioning back to school is one way to begin these lifelong lessons.

How to Help Children with Homework

Heading back to school, children may have anxiety about their new schedules and how to manage their homework.

Heading back to school, children may have anxiety about their new schedules and how to manage their homework. After becoming a teacher, I finally understood the benefits of students completing homework. Homework is designed to help students review key concepts and provide extra time to practice new skills.

Homework should be a review of what the student learned in class that day and is intended to be completed with little assistance. It is important for students to practice what they learned in class before coming to school the next day when the lessons likely expand on their skills. Therefore, if a student doesn’t complete his or her homework, not only will their grade suffer but they will begin to fall behind in future class lessons.

child studying

Since homework is intended to be completed independently, what is your role as a childcare provider? Your role is to facilitate the student’s learning as they complete the tasks assigned by his or her teacher. If written homework is not assigned that day from the teacher, students are still expected to practice reading and math skills. As a childcare provider, you will need to facilitate this practice by focusing on math activities and daily reading. You may need to have workbooks or create flashcards and math games.

Here are 5 factors to help students with homework:

Organizing the Environment

An important success factor is an organized and quiet student environment with all the needed supplies available. The student should have a hard surface to write on and a more comfortable spot on the floor or couch for reading. If the child likes to move around a lot, a clipboard can be used to write on. If the child likes music, keep the volume low to make sure that the environment isn’t distracting the student.

clockTime Management

On average, homework should take 10 minutes per grade level. So, if a child is in 2nd grade, they should have 20 minutes of homework and if they are in the 4th grade they should have 40 minutes of homework a night. In reality, homework may take longer or a shorter amount of time depending on the student. A child may be below grade level in a subject and need more time to complete the work.

Have the child work as much as they can before taking a break and allow the child to complete whichever assigned homework assignment they want to do first. If the child is having a hard time staying on task, set a timer for 10 minutes so that the student can see it. If a child is struggling with a problem, have them skip it and come back to it. Some schools require 30 minutes of reading each night in addition to assigned homework. This can be independent reading or partner reading depending on the age and skill level of the child.

Working Independently

It is very important for the child to complete his or her own homework independently. Homework is created to be a practice of the skills learned in class. If the student does not fully understand the homework, you may need to provide some assistance, but you should never do their homework for them. You can help the child by asking them to do the best they can and reviewing their work when they are finished with each problem. It is okay for the child to have to struggle a little bit. Remember that it is practice.

child making paper collageManaging Emotions

Try to put yourself in the child’s shoes. They have already been at school all day doing work. They may have had a great day or a bad day and this can influence their mood in the afternoon. Plus, not understanding how to do a task can be frustrating. Be patient with the child and try to gauge their attitude when you greet them and ask them how their day was. While working with the student give positive words of praise and reinforcement. Instead of “good job” use more direct words of reinforcement such as:

  • I like how you took your time on that problem
  • Great job remembering to do______
  • I like how you went back and corrected the pronunciation of that word

Taking Breaks

Children may need a break between homework assignments but be aware that some children may use this as an opportunity to avoid completing work. Keep breaks limited to 5 minutes and under 10 minutes of they are getting a snack. Continue to tell the child how much time they have left and use a visible timer. The following are great ideas to help a student clear their mind before refocusing:

  • Take a restroom break
  • Have a snack
  • Take a power walk around the room or hallway
  • Get up and stretch
  • Play a quick game of Simon says

Remember the age of the child and what attention span is developmentally appropriate. K-2nd students will have a much shorter attention span than 3rd grade and up. Keep this in mind when you are giving students breaks or pushing them to finish a task.

A childcare provider is a very important person in a child’s life and education. Children need assistance and a childcare provider with the proper training will be able to facilitate the student’s learning. By organizing the learning environment, being aware of time management, helping the students work independently, managing the child’s emotions, and providing appropriate breaks, the childcare provider will provide the needed assistance to help their charges complete homework and be prepared for the following school day.

To learn more, a Helping with Homework course is available with enrollment in the Advanced Childcare program.

About the Author: Chelsea Herndon has a Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education and an Educational Specialist in Elementary Education both from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is a certified teacher in grades pre-school through 6th grade. She was previously an elementary teacher in Alabama and Washington, DC and is currently a doctoral student at Auburn University.

6 Ways to Help Our Kids After a Mass Shooting or Disaster

These events are not something that many of us feel equipped to process, let alone help our children manage but there are things we can do to help.

It’s part of every parent and caregiver’s worst nightmare- getting a call or seeing on the news that there has been a mass shooting at a school. These events are not something that many of us feel equipped to process, let alone help our children manage but there are things we can do to help.

Our words and actions matter. Children rely on adults to help keep their world safe, and they tend to defer to adults on this issue. If the caregivers around them are calm and responsive, children go about their daily lives with a sense of security and safety. If caregivers are worried and fearful, children will respond with like behavior, even if they do not understand what is wrong. We need to be mindful of our words and actions in times of stress, as children are still developing their ability to keep levels of danger in context and need us to help be gatekeepers of information.

What can we do? The answer to that will vary as to how close you are to where the event occurred and how old your child is. In an age of 24-hour news media and online social networks, it might seem impossible to avoid exposure to news and information, but for young children who are not near the event, it is recommended to shield them as much as possible and to not talk about the event when they are within hearing distance. If you live near where an event occurred or have older children who become aware of an event, it is important to meet your children where they are developmentally.

  1. Emphasize that your children are not in any immediate danger themselves
  2. Help focus on the helpers in the event – what the police, EMTs, school staff, and other adults are doing to help
  3. Try to correct any misinformation as simple as possible by providing basic facts if necessary
  4. Limit exposure to repetitive news coverage of the event
  5. Allow your children to voice worries and concerns and validate their feelings. Young children may use imaginative play rather than words to process their worries and feelings
  6. Help children generate ideas about what might help them feel safer in the moment if they are feeling uneasy

It’s also important to remember that children show stress in various ways. Clinginess, disrupted sleep, irritability, separation anxiety, or regressed behaviors can all be a sign that a child is having increased worries. This is normal after a tragic event but if it is prolonged and doesn’t respond to usual comfort, you may wish to consult with your child’s pediatrician or other child development professional.

About the Author. Dr. Lauren Formy-Duval is a licensed psychologist practicing in Durham, North Carolina. Working with children and families for over 15 years in schools, hospitals, community agencies, Dr. Formy-Duval is currently in private practice and is also an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute.