The ritual of back-to-school shopping offers an opportunity to think about school anew, says Amy Best of George Mason University.
Photo by Marilyn Campbell.
“Consider easing into the early morning routine by adjusting your sleep schedules several days before school starts with progressively earlier wake up times.” — Sean Aiken, head of school, BASIS Independent McLean
As children savor the last days of summer, many families are gearing up for the start of a new school year. From first day anxiety to new bedtime routines, local educators offer suggestions for a seamless transition to the classroom.
“I have always loved the rhythms of the school calendar because of the beginnings and endings and the possibilities for reflection and a chance to refresh and renew…” said Amy L. Best, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, George Mason University. “I think the ritual of back-to-school shopping, whether that means a new binder and notebook, a new backpack, or a pair of new sneakers … remains important for us because it offers opportunity to think about school anew.”
The start of a new school year is an ideal time to help children set reasonable expectations, an important concept for high school students who begin to manage an increasing amount of responsibility and must learn to create a balance in their lives, says Best. “Put things in perspective,” she said. “Sometimes the goals [that are] focused on personal growth, like learning how to advocate for yourself with a teacher, or navigating the halls, are as important as identifying academic milestones.”
“It's useful to revisit points of struggle and perhaps more importantly, triumphs from the previous year. Reminding a student how they successfully managed a difficult issue is helpful,” said Best.
Gone are the days of staying up late and sleeping in the next day. A healthy bedtime routine must be re-established gradually, advises Sean Aiken, head of school, BASIS Independent McLean.
“Consider easing into the early morning routine by adjusting your sleep schedules several days before school starts with progressively earlier wake up times,” said Aiken. “Building the routine before the first day of school will help the adjustment on day one.”
“In the week before the school year begins, families should revisit the expectations for bedtimes and morning routines and choose an evening and following morning to practice the routines,” said Jalene Spain Thomas, Lower School Director St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School in Alexandria. “Children will appreciate knowing that the new routine for this school year includes a slightly later bedtime or more time for independent reading or shared reading with a parent.”
For younger students, separation anxiety may become an issue as they move into a parent-free environment each day, says Aiken. “In these cases, contact the school and establish a go-to adult for your child to talk to in the event they miss you too much during the day,” he said.
Focusing on the positives about a child’s school environment can help ease anxiety. “Younger students may want to draw a picture of what they think their new classroom will look like,” said Thomas. “Older students may enjoy writing a list of what they hope to accomplish in the school year that the family opens together in January.”
Start with an organized workspace and shared family calendar to keep the family organized from day one, advises Aiken. “Folders and binders for home organizational systems are just as important as those your child will bring to school,” he said. “Post a large calendar in a common area of the home so early due dates, back to school nights, and extracurricular activities can be seen by everyone in the family.”
“Parents, remember to take some time for yourselves in those early days, too,” said Aiken. “You’ve worked hard all summer arranging camps, play dates, and other great activities. Maybe it’s time to take a long lunch break together or catch a cheap matinee once you’re safely assured that your children are off and running in their new learning adventures.”