Positive Back to School Transition

Dr. Carmen Anderson
Preparing for a Positive Back to School Transition - Summer Magazine 2020
New beginnings are synonymous with mixed emotions, and this year those emotions will likely be heightened as you prepare to drop your children off for their first day of school. We’re emerging from a prolonged quarantine while adjusting to unfamiliar protocols and procedures just to participate in daily life. This is an unprecedented time in history, and we’re all learning as we go. When all else fails, I encourage you to rely on what you know.

People thrive on routines. Part of what’s been so difficult these past few months is the routines we once took for granted were abruptly upended. However, that’s all about to change again. School is right around the corner, so it’s important to think about transitioning back to the classroom. One of the ways you can set your children up for successful transitions back to school is by reinstating routines that will prepare them for the year ahead. For example, begin enforcing a reasonable bed time a week or two before school starts. You’ll also want to share information about the changes they can expect this year including what drop-off and pick-up ill look like, so they can get used to these new ideas and ask you any questions before the big day. Talk to your children about all the ways they’ve learned to keep themselves safe – through hand washing, sneezing into their forearm and using a mask when they cannot physically distance. Communicate, communicate, communicate. If you don’t know the answer to a question, let your children know you’ll find it. If they express worries, say something like, “I can understand why you might feel that way,” and then convey your confidence that St. Mary’s is doing everything they know how to do to keep our community safe. I’ll often encourage a reluctant child by telling him/her to try something as an experiment. That way if it doesn’t work, we can make adjustments as we go. 

Social support will be paramount with regard to helping your children feel comfortable as they return to school. Friendships naturally ebb and flow, but it’s difficult to tell how the quarantine may have affected social relationships. Every family has different rules with regard to technology, and it’s likely children had different levels of access to their friends. Make a point to encourage connection with other students before the first day back, so your children are excited to reconnect with their peers. In doing so, take their lead. Ask who your child would like to connect with rather than limiting these interactions to individuals you prefer.

Talk to your children about all the ways they’ve learned to keep themselves safe.

Once the big day is here, it’s important to remember children take their cues from you. If you’re nervous about dropping your children off, they will pick up on that. Separation anxiety applies to parents too. Be as calm as possible and help them focus on the positive things they’ll experience this year. If you’re uncertain about whether in-person learning is right for your family, reach out to your division head or myself ahead of time, so we can answer questions you may have to alleviate anxiety. We’re here to support you. If there are tears during drop-off, that’s okay. Please trust we are well equipped to care for students who may feel upset. More often than not students recover quickly once parents leave and go on to have really great days. So as the summer comes to an end and we gear up for another year at St. Mary’s, I encourage you to talk positively about the upcoming year in front of your children, share favorite memories from when you were your child’s age and remember we’re all in this together!