The MLRA Therapy Blog

Insights and ideas from the therapist team at Meghan L. Reitz and Associates.

11 Tips on How to Help Your Child Transition Back to School


The start of the school year can be both exciting and stressful. The first days (or even weeks or months!) of school can create a host of new challenges regardless of your child’s year in school. The start of a new grade, new teachers, homework, and/or socializing with others can all make the transition to school difficult. Some children will have a harder time adjusting out of “summer mode” and tackling the new school year.

Children are often unable to articulate that they are have a difficult time; therefore, it is important to pay attention to warning signs. Some common signs include:

  • Increase in irritability or agitation (or difficulty “calming down”)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Increase in behavioral problems (i.e. defiance, sibling rivalry )
  • “Sickness” that appear before or after school (i.e. chronic stomach aches, headaches, diarrhea, and nausea)
  • Withdrawal (stops doings things they used to enjoy or staying home all the time)
  • Negative self-talk (i.e. “No one likes me”)
  • Anxiety about school (worrying about school or fixation on events at school such as mistakes or interactions with other kids)
  • Poor grades or missed homework assignments

If you notice, any of the warning signs above. Here are some tips to ease your child's transition:

  1. Just listen. Listen and acknowledge your child’s feelings without trying to fix, interrupt, or provide your opinion (as parents we want to try to “fix” our child’s problems but often the best thing is to just listen unless they ask for help)
  2. Talk about school positively. Make sure your own worries don’t become your child’s worries (i.e. talking about missing your child). Focus on what they have to look forward to at school.
  3. Give ample time in the morning. A rushed or hectic morning can start the day with increased anxiety and stress, which can continue into the school day. Make sure there is plenty of time to eat breakfast and get to school on time (and potentially deal with any anxiety once there!).
  4. Prepare the night before. Get lunches ready, pick out clothes, etc (writing a checklist can really help!)
  5. Get proper sleep. Make sure your child goes to bed at a decent time and the bedtime routine assists in getting the child ready for bed (i.e. warm bath or shower, reading books)
  6. Create a routine. Create it with the child and make sure you stick to it (even on weekends although the times can vary slightly). The routine can help to create stability and control.
  7. Establish a goodbye ritual. Particularly good if your child has a hard time saying goodbye. A quick goodbye rather than a drawn out goodbye may be more beneficial.
  8. Allow for down-time after school. Give them a break to unwind by eating a snack and/or relaxing prior to starting homework or asking extensive questions about school.
  9. Send a note or words of encouragement. Sometimes a simple note in their lunchbox can make all the difference.
  10. Talk to the teacher. Teachers are often willing to help and have lots of experience helping children to be comfortable at school. Coordinating with the teacher can help make the transition easier and let them know your child may need a little extra attention (the child may act “fine” at school so the teacher may not even know there is a problem).
  11. Seek outside help. If your child doesn’t seem to be getting better, getting worse, or symptoms are preventing them from functioning in their daily life, it may be time to seek outside help from a counselor, social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelsey Wechter, MS, LPCKelsey Wechter is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Meghan L Reitz & Associates. She provides experienced counseling to children, adolescents, adults and couples to identify issues they are experiencing and overcome problems through a variety of innovative, evidence-based strategies. Learn more about Kelsey HERE.

13 comments (Add your own)

1. Emily W wrote:
What a wonderful and informative blog! I had so much fun reading this and now I have so many ideas on how to help my child, Oscar, transition into school life!

Thank you Kelsey! I will have to schedule an appointment with you soon.

Thu, October 22, 2015 @ 10:53 AM

2. Anne wrote:
Hi Kelsey!

My daughter Lola just started second grade. I took your suggestion and put some fun and encouraging notes in her lunch box. What great advice! It is a great pick-me-up for the middle of the day stress, and reminds her not to worry.

Thank you for the advice. What a wonderful counselor! Couldn't recommend Kelsey enough!

Thu, October 22, 2015 @ 10:59 AM

3. Jackie N wrote:
Kelsey, I found your words helpful as well as informative. My 11 year old daughter Aleah has a very hard time transitioning to new situations. I am going try some of your ideas. Thanks you so much.

Thu, October 22, 2015 @ 7:13 PM

4. Sarah Anderson wrote:
Number 11 is one that parent's should always keep in mind. A good amount of parents seem to think that their child doesn't need a counselor or therapist, and that they can handle their child's problems on their own. This, however, isn't always true. Sometimes the only thing that will help is a stranger that is trained to listen and help.

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