Easing back into school means shifting routines now

Don’t wait for school bells to jolt kids back into school-year habits, says UAB psychologist Josh Klapow.

nicole_schoolbus_siteThe stores are peppered with back-to-school signs advertising the latest deals for kids returning to the classroom, but one University of Alabama at Birmingham associate professor says this may not be enough to move you and your children out of the summertime groove.

“Returning to the routine of the school year can be overwhelming for adults and students,” says Josh Klapow, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist who teaches in the UAB School of Public Health. “During the school year there’s a sleep schedule, a tighter timeframe for performing household chores and the sense of fewer hours in the day. Altogether, this can lead to debilitating anxiety.”

Students in the South return to school in early August, when there are still many hours of daylight, and others after Labor Day. Regardless of the date, preparation is key to success.

“Throughout the summer months, you and your children have developed new habits and routines. Breaking those is extremely difficult to accomplish in a day,” says Klapow. But if you don’t try to go cold turkey, the transition should remain pain-free.

“This means adjusting bed times and morning alarms starting now. If they already haven’t been reading through the summer, have the children pick up a book for at least 20 minutes a day, to mimic homework time. This helps everybody in the household re-adapt,” Klapow explains.

More important, Klapow says stay calm and composed through this transition.

“You need to keep your emotions in check. Your children will pick up on your feelings; you set the tone. If you're excited and positive about the beginning of school, your child is more likely to be. If you're feeling frantic and unprepared, that's what your child will pick up on.

“Shaping your children's behavior now with gradual changes will ensure that by the time you hit the school year, they are back on track,” he says.