The days are getting shorter, the cicadas are singing and the back to school sale coupons are arriving daily – all signals that the “lazy” days of summer are soon coming to an end. Hopefully the summer has provided opportunity to slow down a bit and break away from the tight schedules during the rest of the year. Transitioning back to more structure can be tough and even produce anxiety for those starting something new. Fortunately, there are ways to both enjoy the remaining days of the summer and also ease our way into the fall.
Ways to Ease the Transition
Slowly adjust sleep schedule: Waiting until the first day of school or work to get up early can make for a miserable experience. Begin the transition over a few weeks by going to bed ten or fifteen minutes earlier each day and waking up earlier as well. Sleep is a critical component to school and work success and making it a priority is important not only for focus but also for proper immune system function, weight management and coping with stress. If getting good sleep is a chronic issue this is a good time to create good sleep habits and get help if you need additional resources.
Savor what you love about summer: Create a “bucket” list of what you love about the summer. For example, it may be longer days, warmer weather, fresh foods, the beach or cookouts. Have you enjoyed these yet this summer? If not, now is it time to create a plan to make the most of the remaining days and savor what you love. Plan a potluck barbecue or picnic, take a day trip to the beach, walk in the park on your lunch hour or stop at the farm stand and make your favorite recipe using summer fruits and vegetables.
Plan for fun in the fall: Think about what you enjoy in the fall. Whether it is football, the leaves changing, apple picking, crisper temperatures, bonfires or warm sweaters, write it down. Begin to plan for the fall while still savoring the summer. Help your children think of a few fun events they enjoy in the fall and put them on your calendar. Make a fun tradition of back to school shopping by having a meal out first and have each child describe three things they liked most about last year and three things they want to learn this year.
Plan together for the transition: The transition back to school or work is a great time to evaluate what did and did not work for your family last year and plan to make positive changes. Involving everyone in the plan can help engage all in making it work. Ask for and value each person’s ideas and develop what works for your family. Create a “plan B” as well in case the first plan does not work.
Managing anxiety is a lifelong skill: Children may feel anxiety over the new school year. For some it might be due to a previous negative experience but for others it might be worry about the unknown especially if going to a new school. Many parents feel anxious as well. If so, take time to work through your own stress so you are not projecting it onto your child. This is a great time to teach children and teens how to work with these feelings and develop healthy coping skills that will help them throughout their lifetime. Techniques like deep breathing and guided imagery are readily available through age appropriate apps, books or classes and can help with racing minds. In addition, talking through fears and helping your child engage in a plan to ease concerns will help them feel in control. Resist the urge to rush in to fix the issue for them or minimize how they feel and instead help them think through ways to alleviate their fear. Brainstorm possible solutions with your child to engage them in developing creative ways to manage anxiety.