It’s back to school and some of you are jumping for joy and others are sad to see the summer end. This time of year is one of the many endings-transitions-beginnings that we experience as parents. Here are a few tips to ease the transition and get off on the right foot.
End by closing out summer:
Traditions, ceremony, and rituals are a way for families to honor who they are and what they’ve done. Find a way to honor the summer that you’ve had as a family. Each of these suggestions is an activity to do together, casually, allowing input from everyone.
- Make a scrapbook or slide show of your vacation
- Make a list of the family’s top 10 highlights of the summer
- Observe how each person in the family has grown and changed
- Have an end-of-summer barbecue
This doesn’t have to be involved and time consuming, it is more about the acknowledgment of the end of one season and the beginning of another.
Transition to fall and school:
Work with your children, spouse, and caregivers to create morning, homework, and bedtime routines. Be very clear what responsibilities each person has. Even very young children can contribute to getting themselves ready for the day or for bed. When they do, they develop new skills and independence, and lighten the load for you.
Routines provide security because children know what to expect. Charts for sequencing (not to measure performance, that put stress back into the mix) helps kids stay on track. Let them create their own chart with your guidance of what needs to be done.
As children grow and develop competence, they can take on more and more. For example for breakfast:
4 years old: Take out bowls and box of cereal and pour it (you may have to create a low shelf that they can reach with supplies and train and practice pouring to get right amount and without spilling)
8 years old: crack eggs into a coffee mug, sprinkle some cheese on and microwave.
11 years old: make toast for the whole family, put out spreads for everyone to put on their own: peanut butter, mashed avocados, jelly, hummus
14 years old: make egg Mc-something sandwiches. Name it after your family: “Egg McButlers”
All of this takes some planning and training. The payoff is that kids are involved, engaged, learning not only cooking skills, but also math, planning, and time management skills. They’re also contributing to the group. Start slow with one thing at a time, take time for training, and practice a few days before school starts or on the weekend.
Begin a new year:
Talk about expectations. What will you expect kids to do for themselves, what will you be responsible for? What might their new class be like? If they are in a new school, what might be different?
Ask them about their expectations. What are they really looking forward to – seeing old friends, learning new subjects, joining a new club, eating lunch at a new time? What are they concerned about – not knowing the kids in class, being unfamiliar with school routines, not liking their teacher, having to do homework again?
Then, LISTEN. Really hear their excitement and their fears and let them know that, no matter what, you believe they can do it. Give them information to help the accuracy of their expectations.
Set up a time, preferably each day – even just 10 minutes – so that they know that they will get your undivided attention to talk about their new experiences. Keep asking curious questions. Staying connected will help them transition well and inform you as to what needs your attention and what doesn’t.
Remember that endings and beginnings are easier to see. Transitions are a little harder, so patience with everyone (including yourself) is critical. Focus on progress, not perfection. Before you know it, September will be over and you will all be in the swing of things.
Regardless of your approach, two things are certain: time will march on, and your children will continue to learn from all their experiences. Consciously making your life together engaging will increase the likelihood that they will be adopting good habits, growing, and thriving.
How will you mark the end of summer? What routines will you create to transition smoothly to the new school year? What expectations will you discuss with your families to begin a new chapter?