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The Back to School Struggle


If you are anything like my family, you are desperately trying to enjoy the last few days of summer vacation. It's inevitable though--school is starting up again soon. This means SO many changes to our daily routines or lack of routines. Transitioning from summer vacation to the school year doesn't have to be a painful one (despite my son's first day of Pre-K pictured above). Keep reading to learn some ways I try to help with the transition from vacation mode into school mode.

Starting two weeks before he has to go back to school, I begin making his bedtime a little earlier each day--by ten minutes, until we reach his school bedtime. I don't fully expect him to actually fall asleep at his school bedtime once he is in bed, but making his bedtime a little earlier each day helps him to adjust to being in bed at that time.

As much as I hate to do it, I start setting alarms and getting up earlier. During the summer, he may wake up anywhere between 6:30 and 8:00. It's fine in the summer, but for the school year I need him awake and functioning at 6:00. To switch his wake-up time all at once is too difficult, so much like bedtime, I ease into it by slowly setting the alarm earlier and earlier.

Whenever he has started at a new school, I have made sure to bring him to that school to visit. For all schools he has attended, they have allowed him to visit the spring before he entered. This has been great for him to see the schools and meet the teachers. Then, before he started his schools as summer drew to an end, I made sure to walk or drive by to show him where he would be attending in September.

In the summertime, he is outside most of the day. During the school year he is inside most of the day. To try and balance this a bit all summer, I encourage him to read and continue doing educational activities. I don't have him complete lots of structured work, but keep up a routine similar to what his homework routine. He does a half hour of reading each day and an educational workbook ( 1-2 pages) or math facts through his school's recommended app.

We talk A LOT about going back to school and what to expect. We make sure to discuss who his teacher is, what his day is going to look like and who is in his class. We look up the teacher on the school web site, which most schools have, to know what he or she looks like.

If there have been changes at school in terms of the principal, specialists etc., I make sure to let him know about these before he starts school. I try to minimize changes and surprises as much as I can.

We read books about school. When my son was younger and had no idea what to expect we read lots of stories about going to school. I highly recommend The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn for those children who are nervous about being away from their home and parent.

Something I have done in the past with clients to help with the school transition is writing a social story about back to school, which I individualized to them. A sample back to school social story is:

Soon I am going back to school. I will be in the X grade with Ms./Mr. X. I will need to get up early at X. My mom/dad/bus will take me to school. At school I will have to do work. I will need to eat lunch at school.

I will have fun learning. School ends at X. I will go home with mom/dad/bus.

Most of all I try to make the whole transition a positive and exciting one. Remember to remind your child of all the fun things that come with September-friends, fall, sports and clubs!

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