You want to help your child who learns and thinks differently make the transition from summer to school. But you have to be careful not to send messages about going back to school that may hurt more than help. Here are some things to avoid saying — and what might work better.
1. “You’ll meet lots of new friends.”
If your child has trouble making friends, the idea of meeting new kids may be more stressful than exciting. Plus, promising success, whether it’s social or academic, can backfire because there’s no guarantee it will happen.
A better thing to say: “Remember how last year, you met Emily on the playground and became friends? That didn’t happen right away. Let’s practice some ways you can get to know new kids this year, too.”
2. “There’s going to be more homework this year.”
Generally, as kids get older there is more homework each year. Your child probably already knows this. Mentioning it won’t help your child prepare. It will likely just cause stress.
A better thing to say: If you want to talk about homework before school starts, point out the ways your child is prepared for it. Say something like, “We’ve created a great spot for you to do homework” or “You’ve kept up with your reading this summer.”
3. “I remember how nervous I was about going back to school.”
If your child is nervous, it’s natural to want to share how you relate. But kids who learn and think differently often have unique fears about school. So your memories may not seem relevant to your child.
A better thing to say: “It can be scary starting new things. Remember how nervous you felt at the beginning of last year? But you've got a great teacher and lots of support. And we're here to help you, too.”
4. “Your sister loved this grade.”
We want our kids to feel positive about the new school year. But comparisons with siblings or other kids may have the opposite effect. Unless those other kids also learn and think differently, kids may just assume their experience won’t be as good.
A better thing to say: “There’s so much going on this year that’s right up your alley. You really love science, and now you’ll have it every day! And you’ve got your favorite art teacher again this year.”
5. “It’s time to get back to work.”
It can be extra hard for some kids who learn and think differently to switch gears from summer fun to daily school-day routines. And the transition can be even bumpier if your child feels like it’s going to be all work and no play.
It’s better to say: “I know you’re going to be working hard at school, so let’s make sure we have some fun things lined up, too. Let’s plan some weekend activities for after you’ve settled back into school.”
Does your child not want to go to school? Get tips on what to say.
About the author
About the author
Bob Cunningham, EdM has been part of Understood since its founding. He’s also been the chief administrator for several independent schools and a school leader in general and special education.
Donna Volpitta, EdD is the founder of Pathways to Empower. Her work draws on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and education.