The saying, “The days are long but the years are short” is frighteningly accurate.
This year my girls are going into Grades 3, 5 and 6. And my “baby” is starting 4-year-old kinder. I can’t believe my first-born will finish Primary School this year. I feel like it was only yesterday that I bid my timid girl farewell on her first day of school. And now she’s practically a teenager!
We have all enjoyed a relaxed break where our days don’t have a lot of routine or structure. But I am a huge proponent of routine during the school term. There are too many moving parts in my world to be spontaneous. I myself love a routine, and babies and kids THRIVE with routine.
As summer holidays come to an end and back-to-school season begins, it can be hard to get back into the rhythm of a regular schedule — for both kids and adults. Starting a new school year can be an exciting time, but also an anxious one. Lots of kids – and their parents – feel nervous in the buildup to their first day back. Preparation is key to dealing with situations where there are lots of unknowns.
5 tips to help your daughter transition back to school
1. Be Prepared
Research clearly shows that the more prepared someone is for a new experience, the less daunting that experience can be for them. This works for very young children, but it also works for tweens and teens. My 4-year-old isn’t great with change, and she’s very much the velcro-toddler. So we have been talking a lot about kinder and what to expect, to help prepare her for change.
Talk openly with your daughter about her feelings about returning to school and be ready to answer any questions. This is especially important if they are starting at a new school (either Primary or Secondary) and if they are prone to anxiety. If she’s worried about something specific, troubleshoot some solutions with her so she feels prepared. Tailor the depth and breadth of conversations based on your child’s age and maturity level. Touch base with teachers early on to troubleshoot any issues your kids may be having.
Also, a word about avoidance: All the research shows that avoidance reinforces anxiety. But when we move towards something, explore it, and get curious, we build anticipation. It might be nervous anticipation, but it’s still anticipation.
2. Foster Friendships
One of the best predictors of children’s wellbeing at school is the quality of their relationships. It makes sense that if they are happy in the playground, this will translate to the classroom and contribute to their all-round well-being. Friendships can be tricky, particularly for our girls. Whenever I ask my readers what challenges they are currently having with their daughters, friendship dramas inevitably come up.
Help your daughter nurture the healthy friendships and learn to identify the not-so-healthy ones. Talk about what makes a good friend and ask your daughter to explore the qualities of a good friend: loyalty, respect, support, and interest. Healthy friendships are not usually hard. If a friendship is confusing or seems imbalanced or manipulative, then it’s a red flag that something is not right. You may wish to organise playdates before the term begins to reinforce the friendships you want to foster.
3. The importance of sleep
I can’t over emphasise the importance of getting enough sleep. If late nights have become routine, then gradually start to bring bedtime forward. All kids need to transition from holiday bedtime to school bedtimes. As the saying goes, “The morning starts the night before.” Encourage a wind down routine that includes books and remove tech devices, such as phones and tablets, from kids’ bedrooms to focus them on sleeping. For more tips on nighttime anxiety and sleep head to this IGTV episode on all the things that have helped my daughters sleep better.
4. Refresh your rules
It’s a good idea to refresh your rules/expectations for the school year, particularly around screen time. What’s allowed and when? Remind them of their chores that they may have let slide (as mine have) during holiday mode. Set a solid routine for mornings and afternoons. My girls are expected to dress themselves, do their own hair, pack their backpacks, make their beds, brush their teeth and remind me of what’s on after school! Similarly when they get home, they sit at the kitchen bench for afternoon tea, then they unpack their bags, do their homework (or go to an after-school activity) and help set the table for dinner, and stack the dishwasher afterwards.
5. Positive vibes
Kids are often quick to pick up on our attitudes towards things, so try to speak positively about school and emphasise the positive aspects of it, such as their friends and teachers or the exciting things they’ll have a chance to learn.
Remind them that you have their back, and you are their biggest cheerleader. Consider popping a little Pick-Me-Up card in their backpack/lunchbox each day to encourage a positive mindset and keep your connection strong. Parents play an influential role in encouraging a positive back-to-school transition and helping to reduce children’s anxiety and worries.
How are your girls feeling about the year ahead? Do you have any particular concerns or challenges?