Helping Children Get into the School Routine
By Amy Scuglik, Montessori Support Specialist
Back-to-school can be very difficult for families. Many students find change challenging, so the transition from being at home every day to being at school for several hours can sometimes impact a child’s behavior, attitude, and mood. This can then affect parents as you watch this unfold in front of you. There are some ways we can combat the back-to-school blues.
You can expect that your child might be tired and grumpy. He/she might complain about school, the teachers, and even other students and friends. This is common. Your child is getting up early and is expending energy to engage in the environment and attend for more time during the day. He/she is trying to integrate all that is happening and adapt to this new routine, making sense of the changes.
For children entering a new environment, absolutely everything is new: new teachers, new materials, new routines, new expectations. These routines and expectations can be intimidating and overwhelming. The trust and security children had with a previous teacher is only now initiating with the new teachers. Children, like adults, can be resistant to change. However, change brings about growth and refinement.
Parents can help. The best thing parents can do to help their child during the back-to-school transition is to use positive and encouraging words about school. Children need to know that parents and teachers are a “team” and have the same overall objectives in mind. A positive parent/teacher relationship helps children succeed and feel good about school. Parents can initiate positive conversations rather than reactive. Talk about upcoming events, discuss activities that have happened, and the general “going-ons” of a school day. If your child’s comments turn negative, be sure to listen first, then try to turn conversation into something more encouraging.
In the classroom, we often call negative talk “toxic”. We discuss how toxic words can not only affect our own mindset, but it can also affect others around us. Complaining, whining, bragging, gossip, put-downs, are all on the “toxic” list. We provide time in the classroom for students to practice compliments and acknowledgements. Parents, too, can set aside time to practice using positive talk. Providing sentence starters can be helpful for younger children: “I like it when…”, “The best part of my day was…”
Parents can also use artwork, work plans, or papers coming home to start conversations. Modeling positive communication in your own life is another way to encourage the development of this skill. Share with your child about how you look at new situations and respond to others, both negative and positive. Consistent family routines such as dinner time, bed time, car rides, parent/child reading, etc are a great opportunity to share with one another with calm, positive, and encouraging conversations.
Let’s not forget that sleep matters! Ensuring that children (and you) get adequate sleep will lead to a more positive attitude and a greater ability to deal with stressful situations. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following sleep hours (per 24 hours) to promote optimal health:
- Children 3 to 5 years—10 to 13 hours (including naps)
- Children 6 to 12 years—9 to 12 hours
- Adolescents 13 to 18 years of age—8 to 10 hours
Back-to-school can be hard. It is a time of transition for all. Transitions are part of everyday life and a time to develop important skills. Transitions are an opportunity for holistic growth. The school year has begun and let’s all make it a great year for “growth in wisdom, age, and favor…”
Other Important Information for Parents:
The AAP found that adequate sleep on a regular basis leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep each night is associated with an increase in injuries, hypertension, obesity, and depression.
In addition to these recommendations, the AAP suggests that all screens be turned off 30 minutes before bedtime and that TV, computers and other screens not be allowed in children’s bedrooms. For infants and young children, establishing a bedtime routine is important to ensuring children get adequate sleep each night. The AAP program, “Brush, Book, Bed,” is available here: http://bit.ly/bedroutine.
The Wait Until 8th pledge empowers parents to rally together to delay giving children a smartphone until at least 8th grade. By banding together, this will decrease the pressure felt by kids and parents alike over the kids having a smartphone. Find more information here: www.waituntil8th.org