It is that time of year again when most parents typically report an increase in their children acting out! This is usually the time that parents and kids alike start counting down the days until school starts. Kids start to have worse behavior as they tire of the summer routine, boredom sets in, and they sense the transition ahead. Families have spent an increased amount of time together and begin to wear on one another’s nerves and children miss their friends.
Children benefit from caregivers being intentional about the transition back to school. We are all guilty of letting go of routine in summer. In fact, I recommend letting loose some during the summer months. It’s important to engage in the joy of summer and “let down our hair” so to speak. In addition, heat and light make for difficulties in holding to a typical bed-time routine and travel and fun events throw off family schedules.
While it is tempting to just keep going with what is working now, I would strongly recommend building up to the transition back to school as I believe it will be an extra difficult transition this year. These are ways to ease the back-to-school transition:
- Pick a date to ratchet in a school-year bedtime routine. Re-familiarize yourself and your children with the bedtime routine. 10 days to a few weeks prior to the start of school, begin moving bedtime up by 15 minutes every few nights to get back to your typical fall schedule.
- Set up a place in your home for school organization. Prepare homework spaces that are set up with materials and consider having accessible snacks and materials needed for them to get their work done.
- Think through a routine that will work well for you and your family and take steps to implement this routine. Children thrive on structure and get a huge amount of structure from school. Consider having a daily schedule or an organizational tool to help everyone stay “in the know” while juggling everyone’s scheduled video calls and requirements. This should be posted for kids and adults alike. Build some connection time into the structure. Consider a times of day where the family can come together, even if for a few minutes. This could be anything from a 5-minute cuddle time before the bus or time to have breakfast together.
- Encourage “back to school” thinking. A few weeks before school begins, encourage critical thinking skills, have your children practice reading, writing, and math. Consider listening to an educational podcast together or helping them to research an interest of their choice.
- Discuss the logistics of returning to school with your children and make space for any related emotion. Work to set expectations ahead of time with your children. Let them know what typical days will look like and the schedule of events. Validate any and all emotion coming up for them about the plan and support them in asking questions and continuing to process. Be sure to address any concerns, fears, or questions they have.
- Have a final hurrah for summer day. One way to help in any transition is to bring ritual and honor the transition. Plan a family fun day with your children. You could do a carnival at home, a hike, a water balloon fight, etc. Have your children request activities, treats, music, etc. and help plan out the details. Make the day a celebration of the end of summer and a welcoming of the school year. Lead a discussion of the things you are grateful for about summer and what you are looking forward to about school.
Notice the behavior changes in your children as cues towards sensing the end of summer. With some increased purpose around the transition, we should be able to offset some of the problematic behavior and make everyone’s lives a little smoother.