How To Support Children With The Return To School After Break
Children can have lots of thoughts and emotions about returning to school after having time off. Checking in with them to see how they are doing can help them to process their feelings and get ready to return to the classroom.
Parents can build closeness with their child when they return to school by talking with their child to learn how they feel about being back in the classroom - what they like, what they don't like, and everything in between. Let your child take the lead, if they don't want to talk, don't press the issue, just let them know that you are available if they change their mind.
If your child comes home from school and "throws a tantrum", if they are defiant or noncompliant, or expresses other unhappy emotions - these are normal and developmentally appropriate ways that children express themselves. Returning to school after a break can be taxing on children - they often have to wake up earlier, follow a schedule, focus for longer periods of time, exhibit more self-control, etc. The result is children come home feeling exhausted and like they need a break.
If your child is demonstrating these behaviors, the best way to respond to help them feel better, is to offer your unconditional understanding, patience, and kindness. Consider reflecting the transition back to school as a source of stress. This could sound like, “Going back to school after a long time off is hard! We miss having as much time together when we are at school and work during the day.” When we know there is a context for some challenging feelings, it can be helpful to verbalize it with your child as a way to relate that their difficulties are not out of the blue or for no reason. Rather, sources of stress and upset feelings can be considered and talking about them is a way for the child to have help and feel better. When parents model these kinds of compassionate responses over time, children learn that they can come to their parents for help when they are upset.
If your child is complaining about school, listen without judgment, empathize with their experience, and thank them for talking with you about what is on their mind. Because the most healthy way for anyone to handle stress or unhappiness is to go to a parent, caregiver, or a loving adult who will listen to their problems, it's important to try not to change their mind, fix the problem, or refute their complaints, as this will only discourage them from coming to you in the future.
If these upset feelings continue for several weeks, if your child continues to experience difficulties with returning to school, consider options like reaching out to their teacher or contacting the school's guidance counselor. If your child is withdrawn, isolated, or demonstrating other depressed feelings, consider reaching out to their pediatrician or a mental health professional.