DANBURY, Conn. -- Danbury resident Karen Coe Simmons' six children love summer and have been making the most of their carefree days by relaxing, exploring nature and getting together with friends. They're enjoying every last minute of freedom before the first alarm goes off for the new school year.
To make the transition back to school as easy and stress-free for children as possible, several experts offered their advice.
Laura Schechter, who will be teaching second grade at Immanuel Lutheran School in Danbury, said it's important to get children back on a schedule. That involves "having them head to bed earlier each night beginning a week or two before school starts," she said.
Also, the earlier they prepare for their first day, by getting everything they need, the easier that day will be. "One way to ensure this is to check class websites for supply lists and materials needed for that first week," Schechter said. "Once everything is purchased, pack a backpack with supplies and summer work well in advance of that first day."
Parents should talk with their children about fall schedules and what to expect. "Set a plan for morning routines as well as afternoon tasks such as homework and sports," she said. "I find that if you stick to your routines as close as you can -- although there is always room for change -- children are happier when they know what comes next."
Shelley Berman, a Westport resident and licensed clinical social worker at Coastal Connecticut Counseling in Fairfield, said establishing good communication with children is essential, especially at this time of year.
"Open up conversations with your child by asking positive questions. For example, instead of saying, 'Months have passed since school ended. Are you worried about seeing your friends again?' try, 'Soon you will see your friends at school. What are you most excited to tell them about your summer vacation?'” Berman said. "Help children focus on the excitement of new beginnings, rather than their fears."
It's important for parents to be supportive listeners. "Supportive listening is when parents show they'e trying to understand their child’s point of view, even if it does not seem realistic," she said.
Berman explained that listening sends an important message to a child -- their point of view is heard, their frustrations are normal and the situation will be tackled together.
“Going to school is one of many adventures in your child’s lifetime. The teamwork of student, parent and teacher provides a foundation that reaches beyond academic achievement," Berman said. "When children know that the significant adults in their lives have faith in them, want to listen to them and are there to help them, they are more likely to succeed in all their endeavors.”