Tips to Ease the Back-to-School Transition

As appeared in Private Prep.

How can we prepare for the unknown?

Just a few short months ago, many of us were breathing a sigh of relief that the uncertainty of the 2020-2021 school year was behind us; it appeared we’d be largely back to normal come the fall of 2022, but now things are once again unclear.  Still, at Private Prep we have the benefit of having helped hundreds of students manage the past year, and our executive functioning coaches are eager to share what they’ve learned.  Here’s what we’ll have in mind as we help students gear up for the new school year.

Rely on Systems

Reliable systems make the difference between acceptable and exceptional performance.  In uncertain times, they provide a level of predictability that our brains desperately need in order to keep our stress levels down.  So, take the time now to set up clear physical organization and time management systems.  We all approach these tasks differently, so it’s important to know what success looks like to you.  For us, if your child can find anything they need in 60 seconds or less, that’s a win (even if their desk looks like a disaster)!  As to time management, be sure to distinguish between someone else’s system (say, Google Classroom) and your child’s system.  It’s important that students be able to accurately answer the question “What’s coming up this week?” without scrambling.

Keep routines

For your sanity and for the success of your children, identify household routines that you can all rely on regardless of what’s going out in the world.  Something as simple as a theme song for each day of the week or sharing everyone’s high and low from the day at dinner will help lessen anxiety so that students can put their energy into other pursuits.  Routines around getting ready for the week or shifting from school to break to homework take the thought out of those processes thereby simplifying them and making it more likely that your children will get things done without pushing back.

Create a home study space

Though we’re all hopeful that remote learning is a thing of the past, it might not be.  Even if it is, many high school students we work with do 2-4 hours of homework a night which means that a productive space is important regardless.  In addition to all of the organizational considerations when setting up this space, take the time to help your child really make the space theirs. Let them decorate the area around it with images they like or inspirational quotes. If possible, consider investing in one or two tools that will feel special to your child and encourage good habits. Here are some of our favorites for the fall.

Expect them to adjust

If the past year taught us anything, it was flexibility and resilience, two skills that are central to effective problem solving and which we should continue to cultivate.  Teach your children to set goals using a process which recognizes that we often need to adjust our plans, and that doing so is a mark of success, not failure.  Encourage your children to consider obstacles to achieving their goals and to set time to review their progress and adjust.  Here’s a further breakdown of how that might look.

While it can be frustrating not to know how this fall will unfold for families, remember to try and control what you can, plan ahead, and stay flexible. For more suggestions or personalized help preparing for this fall, contact us.

By : Jenna Prada M.Ed. of Private Prep