5 Things Not to Say to Your Child About Going Back to School

By Bob Cunningham, EdM
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You want to help your child with learning and thinking differences make the transition from summer to school. But it’s easy to send messages about going back to school that may hurt more than help. Here are some things you may find yourself saying—and what might work better.

1. “You’ll meet lots of new friends.”

If your child has trouble making friends, the prospect of meeting new kids may be more upsetting than encouraging. 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 her 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 a connection to help her feel more at ease. But kids with learning and thinking differences often have fears about school that you may not have experienced. 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.”

You’d like your child to feel positive about the new school year. But comparisons with her siblings or other kids may have the opposite effect. Unless those other kids also have learning and thinking differences, your child may feel her experience won’t be as enjoyable as theirs.

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 with learning and thinking differences to switch gears from summer fun to daily school-day routines. And the transition can be even bumpier if your child feels like she’s in for 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! We should plan some weekend activities for after you’ve settled back into school.”

About the Author

About the Author

Bob Cunningham, EdM 

serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Donna Volpitta, EdD 

is coauthor ofThe Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive, Not Reactive, Parenting.

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