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Activities to help the back to school transition

by Suzanne Wintner, MSW, LICSW, PhD

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Heading back to school can be met with all kinds of emotions for kids. Happiness and excitement about seeing old friends and learning new things. Sadness due to leaving caregivers and siblings for the first time in a few months. Worry and fear around new teachers, new students or a new school.

No matter how your child is feeling about transitioning back to school this year, taking time to process and plan around the transition can help your child to feel more prepared for the year ahead. Below are some activities to help you and your child have conversations around the upcoming changes.

Set New School Year “Resolutions.” Celebrating the new school year similar to how we celebrate a new year can help kids to set goals for the year ahead. Ask your child what they want to see themselves learning, accomplishing, or doing this school year. Don’t limit this conversation to just academics! Ask about friendships, sports, and emotional growth as well, and share your own goals for this year as well.

Going Beyond “How Was Your Day?” Do you get the answer “good” or “fine” to the question “How was your day?” from your child when they get home from school? Use our list of questions to help get the conversation going with your child. These questions help to explore feelings, relationships, as well as fun parts of your child’s day. Feel free to take turns and have your child ask you some of these questions about your day as well!

Separation Anxiety Picture Book. Is your child feeling nervous about leaving family members going back to the classroom this fall? Work collaboratively with your child before the school year starts to create a picture book of important people in your child’s life that they can keep in their backpack or cubby. When missing these people, your child can take a look at these pictures which can help combat some anxiety they may feel. They can add notes from people they love or pictures of pets as well!

Positive Self Talk Cards. Everyone needs a little encouragement from time to time, especially when starting a new school year. Spend some time with your child crafting some positive self-talk cards with positive phrases such as “You can do it!” or “You are trying your best!” to keep at their desk. Encourage your child to take a peek at the cards when they need an extra boost of motivation throughout the day. You can even write a few about your child’s strengths to support them as well!

Note from Mightier Clinicians

It is common for kids – and adults – to have a hard time with changes and transitions. We are creatures of habit. Regular routines create feelings of safety and comfort — knowing what to expect reduces uncertainties and worries. Routines also save energy, neurobiologically-speaking, because they allow us to rely on automatic physical and psychological processes. So when one major routine ends, it’s often a good idea to find your next workable routine fairly quickly.

Check out how Mightier itself can be used as a tool to help with the back to school transition!

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