Tips for getting kids back into the school routine

After a long summer break, when is the right time to start preparing children for their return to school? And how can you ease them back into a routine?

The first weeks of school holidays seem endless. The realities of returning to the classroom, juggling homework, packing lunches and having to go to bed at a reasonable time are something to worry about much later…

But before you know it, the first day of the new school year edges closer. So how can you help kids transition from summer mode to learning mode?

Talk about the return to school

“Children experience a mix of emotions when it comes to going to school – from feeling really excited and eager to concern, fear or anxiety,” explains Christine Grove, education and developmental psychologist at Monash University in The Conversation.

While preschoolers might be worried about being left out, being teased or being separated from a parent or caregiver, older children can be concerned about exams, managing study, not wanting to go back to school, or perhaps some issues with their teachers.

Two or three weeks before school starts, chat with your child to find out how they feel about school and if they have any worries. Reassure them that lots of children feel the same way.

Set up playdates

“Arrange a few opportunities where children can meet friends and future classmates before school returns,” suggests neuropsychotherapist Joanne Wilson.

“This can help children feel more comfortable about what lies ahead and also help them start to think about the return to school.”

Give kids structure

Draw a chart of what younger children need to do each day to get ready for school. Work out what they can do on their own and what they need help with, suggests Christine.

Start talking about that structure two weeks before school starts and practise the tasks kids need to do each morning.

“For teenagers, talk about what supports they need to return to school and to get ready for classes,” says Joanne.

“Encourage them to think about what they need to do now to get organised for the weeks ahead.”

Wind back bedtime

Children aged five to 13 need nine to 11 hours sleep, while teenagers need eight to 10 hours of quality sleep.

Start winding back late nights about 10 days before school starts, perhaps getting children to bed about 10  to 15 minutes earlier each night.

“Talk about needing to go to bed a little earlier each night to prepare for school, and give them a five-minute warning to get ready for bed,” says Joanne.

Nourish their bodies and minds

Just as sleep is important for the body and mind, so is good food.

Talk to children about what they want to include in their lunchbox and run through the healthy options.

Go online together and search for some tasty and nutritious lunchbox options.

“During holiday time we often eat more takeaway and less healthy foods, so in the weeks leading up to school return to preparing meals that contain different colours and different nutrients,” says Joanne.

Imagine the first day back

“Athletes visualise winning and being tenacious and pushing past pain and they visualise remaining calm and excited under pressure,” says Joanne.

“Help your children to picture themselves having a great first day at school.”

Written by Sarah Marinos.