And even though the summer felt long (to me at least), the switch to a new school year, and a new routine can seem sudden.
With the sudden change, there comes a mix of emotions, not only for our kids but for us parents too.
Like me, you want to be there for your kids the best you can, so it’s important that you give yourself the same care and attention that you would think to give your kids so that you can help them navigate the transition. Because the bottom line is that if you’re not there for yourself, you can’t really be there for your kids.
So to guide you along, here are 5 tips to help you, and your kids, through the transition back to school.
1. For starters- Let’s get the logistics in place to maximise the transition: Consider what you can do to give yourself extra time. Meaning making space in your calendar in the morning and after school so you can be present and focus on supporting yourself and your kids. Think postponing important meetings and appointments, preparing freezer friendly meals, preparing lunches and school bags the night before, laying out clothes for the next day and setting your alarm clock to get up 15 minutes earlier, whatever will help you be more calm, present and focused while everyone gets used to the change.
2. Stay in touch- with yourself, that is. Usually with new transitions I often find myself thinking that I’m a-okay and then, suddenly, I realise that, wait, I am not okay at all. To help you prevent this type of surprise, take a few moments through out the coming days before school begins, and the days through out the first few weeks, to check in with how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling nervous or overwhelmed, take a moment to offer yourself comfort. This exercise will help you be present for your kids. It will allow you to manage your own emotional experience so that you can help support your child as they manage the ups and downs of new beginnings, plus you’ll enable yourself to create space for more positive feelings, like pride, joy and enthusiasm as well. If you are excited and confident, your child will be, too
3. Prepare your kids mentally– Inevitably, you may feel nervous for your kids, hoping they will have a seamless transition back to school. Instead of ruminating over your concerns, start to talk to your kids. You might like to talk about there feelings about going back to school, or discuss what to expect from the first few days, and ask them if they have any questions. Be honest and optimistic, even if you don’t know exactly what the coming days will bring. Notice the emotions they’re experiencing, like fear, excitement, anticipation, or all of the above. If you’re not sure, you can ask them how they are feeling. They may not know themselves, so you can help them notice what they’re feeling by checking out your observations with them. For example, if they appear to be nervous, check it out with them and ask. Like “Hey, I’ve been thinking and I’m wondering if you’re feeling nervous or excited about school starting?” They may brush off your question or they may share their feelings with you. If they don’t care to share, no worries. At least they know you’re there for them when they need. But if they do express their feelings, be sure to sit with their feelings for a moment, let it sink in, before you offer words of comfort and encouragement (otherwise it can be invalidating).
4. Managing Separation- Take note of how your child reacts to separation. If your child hasn’t been to their new school before, consider taking a visit before the first day. Also, start talking about what the first day will be like. You can introduce them to some of the feelings that they might encounter and coach them through how you two will manage those feelings.
When it comes to parting ways for the day, it might be hard to say goodbye. Not just for your child, but for you too! Take a deep breath, give your kid a warm and reassuring hug, and say ‘goodbye’. Thoughts and fears of what might be in your absence may start racing through your head. Notice them and let them be. It’s natural to feel nervous for your kid; trying to push those feelings away will only make them stronger. Welcome thoughts that remind you of your child’s strengths and capabilities; they’re going to do great! and hold on to those thoughts as you embrace your little ones.Always say goodbye to your child, but try not to prolong the goodbye. If your child whines or clings, be firm but friendly about separating.
Though you may be tempted, remember that in the long run it’s best not to linger. Staying will only give your child the message that it’s best if you don’t separate.
5. Be kind to yourself– Remember that even though your kids were on vacation one day and in school the next, getting used to the new routine won’t happen over night. Give yourself and your kids a few weeks to get settled. Be patient and allow it to unfold naturally. And in the mean time, show yourself, and your kids, the kindness and compassion that you all deserve.
Remember that all begins can be tough and your best bet is to just sit with discomfort, rather than try to fix it. And the same goes for your kids. Our job as parents is to help our kids experience their tough feelings so that they can learn from experience that nothing lasts forever, and all things, with time and support, will pass.