As the summer days inch – or speed! – closer and closer to the start of school, more than one child and parent is feeling wistful for the lazy days of summer even while there is still some lazing left to do. More than one child has lamented the end of vacation, and more than one has uttered an, “Ugh!” as the first day of school becomes larger and larger on the horizon. Even kids who really enjoy school need to make emotional preparation for putting the slower, less structured days of summer vacation behind them and really prepare for the academic year.
Preparing for the start of school emotionally is a process, and goes hand-in-hand with acquiring school supplies and new outfits. As a parent, you may be excited about the start of school because it gets the family back to a normal routine or you may be missing summer already, just like your kids. No matter your point of view, you have to help you kids get ready for school emotionally — as much as by buying pencils and notebooks.
Acknowledge mixed emotions
As summer days wind down, and kids express disappointment about the end of summer or anxiety about what the school year will bring, it can be easy to fall into one of two categories of responses, either, “Oh, you don’t mean that! School is so wonderful!” or, “I don’t want it to be over either! I’m dreading it, too!” It’s a time of transition for all of you, and dismissing or validating only one side of the set of emotions that comes in to play doesn’t acknowledge the complete picture.
Acknowledging all sides of the emotions – anxiety for the start even though there are parts of it they are really looking forward to, and missing the summer fun even while there is still more fun to be had – helps all of us put the emotions of transition in perspective.
Lead by example
When your kids talk about the emotions they are feeling about this transition time, do more than just let them talk and express their emotions. Try to draw out specifics about what they have enjoyed most during the summer season and what they will miss, what they may be nervous about in the school year, but also what they are looking forward to. Offer the same of yourself: talk to your kids about how you feel about the transition, how you remember feeling at their age, and what you did then and do now to get yourself ready for the school year mindset.
Show them in your actions and conversations how you are preparing mentally for the start of school for yourself and for all of you. It may not seem like a lot, but it’s the kind of preparation that will help all of you be really ready when the school bus pulls up.
Offer support and reassurance
Your kids needs fairly specific support and reassurance during the start of the school year. It’s a new year, full of possibility – but also full of unknowns. They need reminders and reassurances that it will all be okay, and they have your support no matter what. Even kids who love school and do very well can use this kind of reassurance. It’s a reminder that the family “team” is behind them …and there will be summer fun again.
Getting ready for back-to-school is more than back-to-school shopping. It’s an emotional process, too – and one that can help you enjoy and appreciate summer fun all the more.
More tips on preparing for back to school: