And just like that, the long Algarve summer holidays are nearing their end for all of our school-aged children.
Schools are busily preparing, and parents are already addressing the endless lists of supplies, clothes and back-to-school equipment.
For many children, it is an exciting time of new challenges, being back with old friends and a welcome return to learning. However, for some, it comes with anxiety, trepidation or just a plain old need of motivation. It is never easy for anyone to re-establish a routine after the wonderful lazy days of summer.
It is, therefore, important as a family to try and alleviate the stress associated with returning to or even starting school. A few simple steps can help to ensure a smooth transition for everyone involved – parent, child, and school. Mental health advisors strongly advocate that the key to alleviating any stress associated with going back to school is the taking of careful calculated steps prior to the end of summer.
A smooth transition can be achieved by recognising the challenges associated with the return to school and taking simple steps to make these positive:
Re-establishing a positive sleep pattern
The importance of a good night’s sleep is crucial to coping with a full day at school for any school-aged child. After the long summer, it is natural that regular sleep schedules may have changed. In order to aid a smooth transition, about a week before the first day of school, begin a bedtime and wake-up schedule that mirrors the upcoming school routine.
In order to function at the correct level, sleep experts, including the Sleep Foundation, recommend that school-aged children up to 19 years of age have at least 9-11 hours of sleep a day.
Build into your daily routine time for breakfast and start this at the same time as re-establishing required sleep patterns. Research highlights that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and is linked to academic achievement, children’s health, cognitive development, and mental health.
Schedule medical/dental check-ups
Take this time as an ideal opportunity to carry our routine dental check-ups, schedule vaccines and general paediatric routine appointments. You and your children will know that they are in tip top health and no school time will be lost when the term begins.
Spend time as a family creating a family timetable/calendar. Talk together about back-to-school routines and rules, include where homework should be done, discuss after-school activities and items like sensible screen time when school restarts.
Now is the time to start weening children away from their electronic devices. Positive time can be used both creating workspaces for teenagers and organising all of the equipment that will be required for after-school activities such as tennis, football etc.
On your family calendar do not forget to highlight important events including school holidays and birthdays. This enables children to establish time frames and not to be overawed by the school year ahead!
Encourage autonomy and organisational skills
When creating spaces for homework and reading at home, encourage your children to take the lead. What do they think they will need? Ask how they want to organise their books? How are they going to track homework, be it digitally or on paper? Even younger children should be encouraged to organise their picture books, bedrooms and play areas.
Buying school equipment
For many schoolchildren, selecting a new school/lunch bag and purchasing stationery is the highlight of their return to school. Do this as a family and enjoy the occasion. With guidance, allow self-choice. This simple task encourages children to begin to consider their commencement or return to school. It stimulates as well as enabling mental preparation and eagerness in younger children to use new items.
Celebrate the end of summer
Finishing the summer on a high will help the transition back to school on a positive note by establishing a clear time frame. It can be as simple as a family picnic on the beach or inviting friends around for a barbecue. The right event to mark this moment is whatever suits you and your family.
Keep the family informed
Share with your children all of the back-to-school details from their schools. They will feel informed and knowledgeable about how the initial school days will be. This is especially important if they are starting a new school or starting school for the first time. Talk openly and often in the time leading up to the new school year about what will happen during their school day, when you will collect your children and what their day will be like. All of these actions will help with your child’s or children’s transition during their first few days. It will feel familiar, even though it may not be.
As a family, following these simple steps will help aid a smooth start to the new school year and, of course, do not forget that your school will be there to ensure that everything goes as positively as possible. Speak to the Head of School if you have any concerns or are unsure about a situation. Everyone is there to work collaboratively to ensure that school days are the best of our children’s lives.
“I’ve always loved the first day of school better than the last day of school. Firsts are best because they are beginnings.” Jenny Ham
By Penelope Best, Head of School,
Eupheus International School, Loulé