Banishing the back to school blues for kids after summer

4 mins read
Eliescha Bazley

Banishing the back to school blues: how to help kids look forward to Term 1

Going back to school after a long summer break can tough for children and teens as it represents a major lifestyle shift. The transition from a couple of months of relaxed holiday-time with little to no schedule to a highly structured academic year is often met with trepidation and resentment.

The full 2022 Academic year could be a huge shock to the system after two years interrupted by lockdowns and seemingly endless stints of remote learning. This is particularly the case for children in their foundation years who may not have experienced a full year at school or had anyone other than family as their main caregivers or teachers for most of the day.

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There will also be new school rules to reflect the current COVID-19 safety measures, such as changes to drop-off and pick-ups, social distancing and mask-wearing, all of which make it harder for kids say good-bye, interact with their friends and re-connect to their school. With these conditions, even the most conscientious, school-loving students are likely to front a protest about returning to school.

Fortunately, as parents we have the power to help ease those back-to-school blues. Applied with some humour and understanding, these tips can help children and teens acclimatise to term one.

1. Start your ‘back to school’ routine early

Routines create a sense of normalcy and security and will help your kids feel settled before the new school year begins. Starting to use morning and bedtime routines – the same set of activities done in a particular order – two weeks before school starts can make the world of difference.

A ‘before school routine’ during the holidays might mean asking children to wake up at the same time each day, get dressed, eat breakfast, and pack a bag for the day’s activities – even if it’s just their swimming gear for a day at the beach.

A regular bedtime routine – taking a bath or shower, reading a book and going to bed at the same time – allows you to provide your child with a sense of predictability of what they’ll experience during the school term.

A few tips to help bedtime run smoothly during term time include limiting screen time in the hour before bed, packing school bags, laying out their clothes for the next day and reading together.

2. Get the kids involved in the preparations

Adults dictate holidays, term times and after school activities which can leave kids feeling a little like they have no control. Help them feel prepared by involving them in the back-to-school activities like:

  • Making their own lunch every day. Each morning, give them a selection of healthy options and let them create their own culinary masterpieces that they can store in the fridge for lunch.
  • If they are old enough, get them to put covers on their books, put their name on books, pencils, clothing and bags
  • Take them shopping and let them choose their new shoes, schoolbag, lunchbox and water bottle – if they love these school items, they are likely to get excited about using them for the first time.

3. Focus on the positives about returning to school

Your child may be mourning the end of their summer break, but it’s hard for them to deny the excitement that new things can bring. If your kid seems glum about returning to school, change their perspective by talking about the positive things they’ll experience. The most obvious motivator is being able to reconnect with old friends and make new friends.

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For the bookworms, they’ll likely get excited about new stationery, books and clothes. You can also talk about how a new year will bring new subjects to learn, new excursions or camps, and maybe the chance to participate in choirs, dance groups or sports that they love.

4. Keep an open dialogue with children from day one

As much as we try to prepare our young people for the new school year, it won’t be uncommon for them to have the odd bout of frustration, fear or anxiety.  Therefore, it’s crucial to create a habit early on of checking in with you child often about how they are feeling about going back to school and encourage them to ask questions.

A little empathy goes along way so Listen to their concerns without judgment and offer assistance when asked – this will help them feel comfortable coming to talk to you throughout the year.

Younger children may find it easier to open up while reading a ‘social story’ which takes them through a school day and uses positive language like “I like meeting my new friends” and “My teacher makes me feel welcome”. You can find examples online – just modify them to suit your child.

how to help kids look forward to Term 1

After massive changes, even adults don’t always like going back to work, so it’s completely understandable when our youngsters show anxiety and resistance to going back to school after summer. Preparing them a couple of weeks out with routines, talking about the positives and opening up the lines of communication can go a long way to making that first term much more enjoyable.

But don’t’ forget to enjoy every minute of summer and give them fun memories to look back on when they feel anxious, frustrated or sad.