The first week back to school can be a stressful one for kids and parents. But a little preparation and encouragement can help make the transition smoother. From supporting kids emotionally to reviewing homework, Dr. Eric Rossen of the National Association of School Psychologists offers his tips on how to get back into the school-year groove.
Be Routine Ready
Adjusting to new schedules can be stressful, but creating household structure makes all the difference. “Designing the routine at home is huge,” says Dr. Rossen. “Getting out the door is very difficult, and one of the first steps is just knowing where things go: backpack goes here, lunch here, shoes go here. It really helps with that transition.”
Get Your Zs
“Two weeks beforehand, start adjusting the sleep schedule,” says Dr. Rossen. “Losing sleep can be very stressful on the body and impact ability to function at school.”
This applies to parents, too. “It’s not just getting the kids in bed at a certain time,” he says. “Parents need to be rested as well.”
Limit access to computers, television and cell phones in the evenings. “Electronics are really not good for sleep,” says Dr. Rossen. “The images and lights actually inhibit the brain from triggering sleep.”
Show Your Support
Preparing for new-school-year changes together and having a gradual buildup helps with the adjustment. “See if you can meet the teacher ahead of time,” says Dr. Rossen. “Visit the school building before it opens. With college students, walk through the campus together.”
For the first week, try to be around to support your child. “It’s not a great week to schedule late meetings at work,” says Dr. Rossen. “Be available and responsive.”
Give ’Em Space
With separation anxiety, too much parental presence can actually be a hindrance. “It can be harmful, as far as expediting their adjustment,” says Dr. Rossen. “Leave the school and don’t linger.”
Take It Easy!
According to Dr. Rossen, emotions may initially run high, but the first week should not be taken as an indicator of the whole year. “It’s okay if you or the kids are having a difficult first week,” he says. “If kids are reacting poorly, remain calm and positive. Just be there to listen and reinforce that there are things they can do if they’re feeling a certain way. Approach it as a team.”
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