As my nephew Ty starts kindergarten this year, I am reminded of the back to school routines and how long some kids (and parents!) take to adjust to their new reality. Some kids like Ty are champs and don't skip a beat when it comes to meeting new little friends, and eating lunches and snacks away from home. Some kids truly enjoy their new found independence. Some kids (and parents!) are morning kids and some are not. Some kids are missing nap time, parent time, and their own toilets, while some kids are struggling with sitting all day! Whatever the month of September has brought you, I congratulate everyone for surviving the transition.
I truly think it takes a year of planning and preparing a child to enter school and transition as successfully as possible. It is also important to remember transitions also happen to some degree between every grade, so every September will be a month of change for a child.
APO is something I use with a lot of my patients when talking about food eliminations, eating healthier, and starting new lifestyle habits. ANTICIPATE, PREPARE, and ORGANIZE. APO is something we can also apply to transitioning children to school/back to school.
Anticipate your child's anxieties and try to spend a few months (or even a year) helping them get comfortable depending on the concerns. Finding other kids their age that will be entering the same school can be a huge comfort before school starts. Setting up play dates, or doing an activity like soccer or a music class or a camp together the summer leading into the school year can be a great start to form friendships. Whether they will be in the same classroom or not, just knowing another child at recess or on the walk/bus ride to school can help. We have to try to remember that we as parents have to lead by example; how to greet and meet new people is a skill! Similarly, I often say to parents if you want your kids to eat vegetables and a variety of different foods, your kids need to see you eat vegetables and a variety of foods.
Prepare them over the course of the summer with things they need to work on. If entering kindergarten, do they need to get better at wiping their bums or leaving enough time in the morning to go to the bathroom before school? Do they need to get better at opening and closing their lunch box or using utensils if necessary? Learning a new routine with snacks and lunch can be a major stressor for parents and kids alike and schools do things differently. Find out beforehand if your school has 2 nutrition breaks or 2 snack breaks and a lunch or 1 snack and lunch, etc. Thinking about what your child will eat at each period is good preparation for their new routine. As your child gets older having conversations about what they like and don't like to eat 'at school' is important. Your child may love curries but quickly come to realize they don't like taking it to school :) It is also important to check-in with them about amounts. Are you sending enough food to power their little brains? What about enough sleep to power their little brains? Preparing your child for an early morning wake-up with purpose will be the most important thing you can do before school starts. If your child isn't used to getting up and out the door prior to kindergarten, preparing them over the summer (not the last week!) is key. A morning camp or morning adventures in the summer that needs you out the door at a similar time as school is great for both parent and child. For my nephew, a hockey camp in the mornings a couple of weeks over this summer was a great way for their household to get into the routine of getting up and packed and out the door.
Preparation helps self-confidence and confident children are happy children.
Organization is key. If the parent (s) is organized the child will be less stressed. And if organization doesn't come easily to you then fake it until you make it. Get everything done the night before so your child doesn't see/feel chaos in the morning. Setting them up for success, especially in the early years, can make for a way more enjoyable school day. Laying out clothes the night before can be helpful for some children, as can packing bags, and homework. We have had to change up our routines for the last couple of school years because of switching between in person and virtual school, because of the addition of masks, and because of covid symptom passports. Once we found a spot for dirty masks and clean masks and got into new habits for signing agendas and passports, we were all happier in our house! Is the living space organized for easy morning school routines and happy (and efficient) after-school routines? After the first couple of weeks of school, re-think if your space needs to be rejigged for the packing and unpacking of backpacks and lunches, homework, extra papers that need signing, etc.
The above are just a few common concerns that come up with patients every single year. It's never too early to start thinking about new school years and it's also never too late to help your child transition; even if they are going into high school. Every family is different and has their unique challenges, but with a little thought solutions are on the horizon. APO!
Food is probably the biggest adjustment for kids entering kindergarten and primary grades. In an upcoming blog, I will share what I do for my kids' lunches and why it works for us.
How much sleep do kids really need? Sleep quantity and quality are both equally important and can play a huge role in your child's learning and mood. Sleep is the key time for our bodies to relax and restore.
Late October and early November are the most common times of the year when I get an influx of calls for supporting immunity.