back to school

By Justin Clark – Brisbane Tutor

It’s that time of year again – Back to School! The summer holidays are nearing their extended end, which means that its time to start preparing your child for the transition back to school. Transitions are tricky for many children, particularly significant ones like going back to school, where they have to transition from their familiar home environment, where they have been almost exclusively for the last six weeks, to a school environment which will not be the same as it was last year.

Starting a new school year can be daunting for children, even if they aren’t starting a new school; they are faced with a new teacher, new classmates, a new classroom and new rules, which inevitably mean unfamiliar routines and processes they are not used to. For some kids, this newness and change is exciting, but for others it is uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help ease your child through this influx of change and set them up for a happy and successful year. By preparing your child for the transition back to school, you can increase their confidence, reduce their anxiety and build their skills to get them excited to continue their school journey. Here are our top tips for making the transition back to school as positive as possible.

Re-establish School Routines

We all know that holidays are different to term time, and for many kids, school holidays result in much less structured schedules. Gradually reintroduce structure into your child’s day by establishing a consistent time they get up (the same time they’ll need to wake up for school), a regular morning routine, more structured meal times and a consistent bed time.

It’s especially important to re-establish your child’s school sleep routine at least a week before they go back to school. This will help ensure that they won’t be tired at school, particularly because the excitement and stress that comes with going back to school can cause kids to have trouble sleeping.

Another routine that can be helpful for kids and parents to establish before going back to school is getting ready the night before. This one is easy to get your child to practice, for example by preparing to go to the park tomorrow. Put a backpack out for them and ask what they need, reminding them to pack their hat and water bottle. This will help them to get back into the habit of preparing their school bag and checking off the things they need the night before.

To support your child to be successful in their school routine, visual charts can be great reminders to help them stay on task. They are particularly helpful for children who struggle to follow multiple instructions as having a visual chart to help them complete a routine, such a getting ready in the morning, will help to be self-efficacy and independence.

Prepare their Belongings

Kids love having special things that are theirs, so letting them pick out a new backpack, water bottle, pencil case or lunchbox can be a fun and practical way to get them excited to go back to school. This is also the time for parents to ensure their child has all the necessary items, like a backpack, lunchbox, hat, stationery and uniforms.

Make sure that your child’s uniforms and school shoes fit comfortably, and that they are placed in an easily accessible spot. Prepare their school bag by ensuring their hat is packed and they have a spare change of clothes ready in case.

Ensure all of their belongings (yes, all of them, even those pesky little containers) are named, including uniforms, shoes, hats, backpack, lunchbox, lunch containers, exercise books, stationery and extras, like their swimming bag (and swimmers, cap, googles and towel), library bag or art smock.

Talk about what to expect

Part of preparing your child for the transition back to school involves talking about what to expect. Discuss where you’ll drop them off for school and pick them up and make sure they know where to meet you, where their class will line up before the bell goes or if they go to after school care. You can help them to ease some of the newness anxiety by practicing their teacher’s name and rehearsing asking for things they might need, like help with a worksheet or to go to the toilet.

Explicit practice of how to navigate the social side of school is helpful too, for example helping your child to rehearse ways to make friends. Acting out pretend scenarios is a great way to practice scripted questions like “would you like to play with me?”, “what’s your favourite animal?” or “can I join in?”.

For children with autism, social stories can be really helpful to ease their anxiety by helping them to understand what to expect in their school day. You can even involve your child in making the social story by getting them to complete each activity and take a picture of themself as they do so to include in the social story.

Build Connections

Talking to and engaging with your child is a really important way to strengthen your connection with them, and help them feel comfortable to share their fears with you. Having secure family relationships helps to boost children’s security when navigating new situations like going back to school.

Another way you can assist with preparing your child for the transition back to school is to help support their school friendships by organising a play date with a school friend, especially one who will be their classmate, to build connections and increase their confidence in going back to school.

Going back to school is an exciting and nerve-wracking time of year for children that brings with it many changes to their routine. By preparing you child for the transition back to school, through re-establishing school routines, preparing their belongings, talking about what to expect and building connections, you can help ensure their back to school experience is a positive one.

For children with learning difficulties and other challenges such as autism getting back into the routine of school can be especially challenging. Not only will Justin and his team help with learning difficulties tutoring, they also help your children build confidence and social skills.