Originally published: September 2021

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A new school year can be full of change. It might mean new teachers, different classmates, or tweaks to the daily routine. It can involve big shifts too, like starting school for the first time, or making the jump from elementary to middle school.

Back-to-school changes can be intimidating. Kids like to know what to expect, so it’s natural for them to be curious (and even worried) about what the school year will look like.

It’s important to be there for your child during times of transition. Your support will help them feel confident, capable, and secure. 

Here’s what you can do to help:

Talk it through

Have open, honest conversations about going back to school. Ask your child what they’re looking forward to—like meeting new friends, trying a new sport or music activity, or checking in with caring adults in the school. Be supportive and optimistic—your child will take their cues from you.

Try asking your child about what worries them. Listen to their concerns without interruption. They might be wondering how they’ll meet their teacher, where they’ll store their gear, or what they’ll do at lunch or recess. Validate their concerns, then help brainstorm solutions.

Focus on what they know

Help your child pay attention to the things within their control. Kids do well with predictability and routine, so planning ahead can prevent little worries from growing. For example:

  • Set consistent times to go to sleep and wake up in the morning—as much as possible, keep them the same on both weekdays and weekends
  • Leave time for making lunch, packing up, and getting ready for the day
  • Figure out the route to school and practice it
  • Talk about different after-school options, like doing homework or playing outside
  • Review school planners, supply lists, and information from your school website
  • Take part in welcome-back activities like school visits or family picnics, drop by the schoolyard on evenings or weekends to connect with families in the community
  • Keep doing activities you enjoy as a family and that help you stay well, like eating meals together, playing board games, or going for bike rides

Check in

As the school year gets underway, try not to overwhelm your child with questions or conversation. Instead, try to get them talking with open-ended prompts while you’re doing

things together. While you’re walking the dog, making dinner, or shooting hoops, use conversation-starters like :

  • Tell me about…your favourite part of the day at school.
  • What did you notice… about recess today?
  • What do you think about…riding the bus?
  • What do you like most about…after school time?
  • How are you feeling about…the new actvity you tried?

You may find that your child just doesn’t have much to say. Give them time and space to settle in. Offer warmth, caring, and compassion—your child will learn that they can turn to you when they need help.

Transitions take time. It might be tough for your child or family to jump back into routine or find a new groove. Try to be realistic and flexible. If you’re concerned that something is wrong, talk to your family healthcare provider or call 811 to speak with a Registered Nurse.

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