Transitioning From Summer to School
Are you noticing a shift in moods as summer comes to a close and school is just around the corner? Or, yikes, maybe it’s here already?! Changes, albeit inevitable, can be stressful for the whole family.
Some children and teens can’t wait to get back into the routine of school; they might be excited to reconnect with friends, to resume extracurriculars, to get out of the house more. And others are dreading getting back to campus; they might resist or fear the structure, the workload, the socialization, the pressures.
Regardless of where your teen is on this spectrum of back to school feelings, they are likely experiencing the energy of transition. And you too!
Transitions range in magnitude and impact, of course, but they all require us to make shifts. Even if the transition is one that we are looking forward to or celebrating, we will likely face some discomfort or anxiety through the process.
Today, I share 10 keys to an intentional back to school because the more aware we can be through this change, the more easeful this season will be.
1. Talk Explicitly About Emotions:
As the parent or caregiver, reflect: What are you excited about? What are you nervous about? I invite you to share how you feel about the transition back to school; this modeling of emotional intelligence can help normalize the feelings that children and teens may be resisting. It can be helpful to focus on the positives, while authenticly sharing about the challenges and tougher emotions that come with this transition. Invite your child or teen to share how they feel too. If you get a shoulder shrug at first (you might!), try again the next day. If open-ended questions aren’t making space, you also might ask for a thumbs up, down, or sideways, rate emotions on a scale of 1-10, or draw the sensations out.
Whether it be electronic-based, a daily planner, or a bullet journal (my fave!), ensure that you and your children have selected individual calendar systems that match needs and preferences. This is a tool for self-empowerment for each member of the family.
3. Create a Family Calendar System:
Sit down with as a family with your planners or calendars and a copy of the academic calendar (and any other other important calendars). Together, transfer important dates– days off, holidays, exams, practices, etc.– into to the family and individual calendars. Create an ongoing routine of sitting down at the end of each month to add additional dates (events, games, tests, etc.) to the upcoming month. Co-creating the calendar = co-creating family schedules and time-management.
4. Schedule Quality Time:
As a family, decide on 1-2 family activities that everyone will show up for. These activities support quality time and connection, and they will be prioritized on everyone’s schedule from the get-go. Ideas include Taco Tuesdays, family walk on Saturdays, or attending a religious service together. This way, as schedules get more hectic, all members honor the family commitment.
5. Establish Daily Routines:
Ask your child or teen open-ended questions such as, “What steps do you need to take each morning to prepare for school?” “What do you need to do each evening to prepare for bedtime?” Allow them to name tasks that are important to their success. If they’re missing something, sure, you may ask, “What about screen time?” for example. However, rather than coaching your child, allow them to create the lists, to name the routines they want to commit to. Encourage your teen to write these routines down and keep them somewhere they’ll see them.
6. Agree Upon Technology Norms:
Engage your teen in conversation by asking, “How does your phone support your daily life and activities?” As the conversation progresses, ask questions such as, “What types of limits will help you stay productive?” and “What amount of time for socializing or scrolling feels fun and supportive?” Talk through this process and work towards family agreements for technology usage.
7. Discuss Academic Supports:
Before the workload gets tough, it’s important to explore opportunities for academic supports. This can include the conversation of what worked (and didn’t work) in the past. It can also include logging on campus websites to ensure familiarity and to explore resources. For instance: Is there a writing center on campus? What are the teacher’s office or tutoring hours? Which online portals do they need to access? Who else can be a support if/when a class gets tough?
8. Explore Social and Emotional Supports:
Just as you and your teen did with academic supports, discuss resources for social and emotional support. For example, create a support system map together, locate campus counseling and support personnel on the website or in the building, discuss teachers/mentors that are safe, trusted adults, explore extracurricular opportunities and outlets, and ask where they plan to each lunch and with whom.
9. Commit to Down Time:
Discuss healthy, supportive options for after-school and weekend time. Give your child or teen options for extracurricular commitments, but also ensure that everyone will have time at home to rest, read, take care of chores, and simply be. Unstructured time is crucial!
10. Set Goals Together:
Create S.M.A.R.T. Goals for the first few months of school. These are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-Focused. Everyone in the family, including parents, can create a beginning of the year goal for home, as well as a goal for school or work. Consider displaying these on the fridge so that process can be monitored and debriefed regularly.
Bonus: Come back to this list again and again. Daily routines will need adjustment at some point. The selected planner system might not be working. Goals will be achieved and new ones await. Come back and co-create again. And again.
I’m wishing you a connected, exciting, and easeful transition back to school. Get in touch with me if you or your teen would like support through this big, often stressful, transition.