Making an Easy Transition Back to School

Another school year is upon us, and we solo parents have a little something called transition on our hands. Maybe summer saw kids at camp, or at one parent’s home in a different state. But when the bell rings, it’s game on. Here are some ways to make the back-to-school transition a bit smoother for your family.

First, why not make the transition back to school fun? Naphtali Roberts, LMFT of Help For Your Family suggests having a back to school party the night before school starts– or a celebration after the first week. Give your kids something positive to look forward to. Solo parents might want to emphasize community by getting together with other families in the neighborhood. If that’s not possible, a make-your-own-pizza party, or watch a movie with gourmet popcorn night, or take your child/children out for a sightseeing bike ride. Make the day before school starts be about fun, too–not only about getting everything ready. Do the prep a few days before.

Prepare your child for learning by dusting off those math papers their teachers sent home at the end of last school year (maybe even crack open a book if they have not been reading all summer). Erin Taylor PCI Certified Parent Coach feels we should give their brains a gentle reminder of what it is they will be doing in a few days/weeks.

Another challenge is bridling the lack of unscheduled free time and the loss of ‘play time’ when school begins. School is not meant to be a discipline or ‘chore’, so make sure to give your child unscheduled free time/time to play at least 60 minutes per school day. If that block of time is too large, then chunk it up into smaller amounts – like 20 minutes in the morning before school and 20 minutes a few times in the evening after school.

If they have not seen friends much this summer, schedule a play date or get-together so they can begin to flex their socialization muscles before the first day.

If the kids are given chance to meet their teacher and visit their classroom, take them. It is good for them to get an idea of where they will be to lessen those first-day jitters. Parents often wait for scheduled conferences. When it comes to dealing with teachers, call the school and set an appointment. The purpose of the meeting is for you to establish your presence as a concerned parent and to tell the teacher about your child, especially because you are a single parent. You should inform the teacher about how you would like the teacher to communicate with you and your child’s other parent regarding school progress or any difficulties. You’ll want the school to keep you both in the loop so you can address issues as necessary. Also, you can inform the teacher of what instructional practices have worked for your child in the past.

Richard Horowitz of Growing Great Relationships, LLC talked about how as the summer vacation comes to an end and the school’s year begins, the routine cycle of family life resumes. New books, new outfits, new teachers mark a fresh start, yet they are often offset by unresolved problems which have been put aside. Moreover, the ongoing stress of managing the many– often competing– needs of an active family begin to rise. The result often leads to conflict, unhappiness and an erosion of the quality of life for all members of the family. During this time, it’s extra important to keep your ex in the know. He/she will need to make arrangements on his or her days too.

Although the idea of a fresh start is compelling, Horowitz cautioned there might be lingering issues that were put aside at the end of the last school year and were not resolved merely by the passage of time. Make a list of unresolved items and pay attention to see if they arise and need attention. This situation can be applied for issues with your child or your ex. Maybe your ex-was late picking up your child, or forget to check homework. Now is the time to discuss the issues and try to nip them in the bud.

In many families, homework questions often lead to conflict and stress. Here are some things to consider: if your child can’t figure out how to do his homework, do not do it for him. Write a note to the teacher indicating that your child did not sufficiently understand the assignment.

Negotiate the homework time and place with your child, Horowitz went on to say. Children have their own learning styles. Some do better with homework right after school, some later in the evening. Not all kids need a quiet space to do homework. The key is that homework is completed, not where and when they do it.

Another challenge for parents is regulating disrupted sleep schedule.  According to Joy Holland teacher and owner of Facetsofjoy, it’s best to begin easing back to the structured bedtime as well as the designated wake-up time at least one week before school begins. Easing in is less of a shock to a child’s body, which also means their mind will be less resistant to the practice. Depending upon how far off the child is from their school sleep schedule, add 15-30 minutes more sleep in the evening. Add the same amount in the morning, each day until they are on their school sleep schedule. The adjustment makes it easier to wake up and to get ready on the first day and during the first week of school.

Lastly, really put yourself in your kids’ shoes. Going back to school was a pretty big deal, remember? Slow down enough to listen to your kids, and see things through their eyes. By taking transition seriously, Solo Nation, you can make it more manageable for you, your ex and your child.

About author

Tina O'Reilly

Tina O'Reilly is a freelancer with over 15 years experience. She resides in Rhode Island with her family. She loves hanging out at the ocean. You can find her at

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