Even during a regular year, the end of summer and beginning of fall marks a big transition for a lot of families. Back to school is a big shift with routine changes and social-emotional adjustments. But this year, the back-to-school transition feels especially big. Our kids have been through so many wild changes, uncomfortable adjustments, and uncharted territory—and so have we!
Given the inequities in access to education that surfaced over the past year and a half, many parents are also worried their children have fallen behind their peers. Whether your family has dealt with online learning from home, hybrid classes, a pod set up, going to school in a mask, or all of the above, you’ve been through a seemingly constant stream of changes and adjustments. As fall approaches, we know they (and you!) may have some extra back-to-school jitters this year. We’re here to help!
We believe two of the biggest supports for creating back-to-school stress relief for kids and parents are connection and routine.
Building Connections with Otter
Otter’s story about the Heart Family teaches our little ones that they are always held in a wide net of loving community connection, even when their loved ones are far away. As our kids embark on a new school year, Otter’s Heart Family offers a powerful reminder that they are always loved and supported no matter where they are and also empowers them to feel excited about creating relationships with new peers and teachers. This can greatly help to ease separation anxiety.
Talking with kids about upcoming changes and giving them a chance to get the details and ask questions is a great way to feel connected and soothe back-to-school stress. In these conversations we can help them remember that their Heart Family, just like Otter’s, is always with them. As we talk with them and help them prepare their backpacks and other items for school, we can remind them that our love and connection travels with them, too.
Roleplaying scenarios like walking out the door, getting on the bus, and entering the school or classroom can be a great way for parents to help kids feel ready, and if they know they’re not just carrying their lunch and school supplies but also the love of their family and community, they’ll feel that much more courageous and secure.
Fostering Routines with Sloth
Sloth’s story of the power of preparedness and routines gives us another way to support our kids as they get ready for the back-to-school transition. Sloth has some big feelings come up about going back to school. He feels secure and supported because he has structure and routine at home, which helps him to feel ready for his big day. Just like Sloth’s family, we can support our kids through their big transitions by giving them predictability in their home routines, such as having dinner together, packing up their backpack for the next day, and preparing for bed. Having routines at home also supports our kids in understanding and practicing routines at school, as well.
Sloth also shares his feelings with his mom, and this helps him to feel seen and supported. Sloth and his mom have a special way of saying goodbye before he heads off to school, and we encourage you to come up with a unique way of sending off your little one before their big day. This special goodbye ritual can be another part of the routines that you create together. Is it a fist bump and a silly face? A big squeeze and a nose nuzzle? Get creative and make it yours, together!
Many teachers agree that school readiness is mostly based on social-emotional skills and less so on academic skills. When our kids have the emotional support and skills to cope with big feelings and big changes, they are well prepared to learn at school.
We hope Otter and Sloth can help your family create some back-to-school stress relief through the power of connection and routine! Whatever fall brings for you, we hope to support you through this upcoming transition.