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  • Nicole Armstrong

Back-to-School: Is the Honeymoon Phase Over?

Thoughts and tips from a therapist, teacher, and mom!


Most kids have been back at school for nearly a month now. Does this mean the honeymoon phase is over? For many, yes! That back-to-school excitement fades and might be replaced with resistance to daily routines. This could look like struggling to leave the house in the morning, fights around homework, or behavioural and emotional changes.



Thankfully, there are some things that parents can do to help ease children through this transition:


Listen and Validate

It’s normal for kids to feel bogged down by day-to-day routines. We, as adults, feel it, so why shouldn’t kids? Let’s not dismiss these feelings but make sure our kids feel heard. You might try saying something like, “Getting back into routines can be hard. I totally get that! I feel that way too sometimes!” We tend to tell kids, “It’s ok,” and dismiss or reprimand their behaviour. It is much more helpful for kids to feel heard.


Create a Plan

Kids typically thrive on routine and structure- they like the predictability! Having a plan is essential. Think about your ideal schedule: Does your child need to finish their homework right after school, or can they have a short break to play or watch their favourite show first? Decide based on what works best for your family and stick to the plan whenever possible! For older kids, brainstorm together. For younger ones, take the lead, but give them some choice when possible. Creating a plan as a family rather than imposing one lets our kids know that we value their opinions.


Consider Extra-Curricular Programming

As a parent and educator, I value extra-curricular activities, family time, and outdoor play over daily homework (but that’s a debate for another time!). And while we want our kids to participate in activities they enjoy outside of school, remember that one size doesn’t fit all! Just because your neighbour’s kids are in daily after-school activities doesn’t mean it's best for your child! Consider your work schedule, your child’s homework load, and their need for downtime. If they are completely depleted by school and activities throughout the week, it might be time to reconsider!


Keep Open Communication With Your Child’s Teacher

Whenever possible, communicate concerns or questions with your child’s teacher. Most teachers want to know what’s happening at home to ensure they can better support students at school. If homework is causing difficulty at home, for example, the teacher might be able to make accommodations or provide helpful strategies. If your child is resistant to leaving the house in the morning, the teacher might be able to engage your child in a special job at school each morning, which might entice them out the door.


Work Backward

Let’s be real, if your child is resisting school, getting out of the house in the morning might be a challenge. If this is the case for you, try working backward. What does this mean? Start the night before by ensuring your child is getting optimal sleep. There are guidelines for this, but it is also based on each child's unique needs. Think about what can done the night before and how kids might be able to help- pack up their backpacks, put their clothes out, make lunches, etc. Having some control over the routine is helpful for kids and also eases some of the stress on adults!


Integrate Calming Practices

While this can be easier said than done, calm parents help to encourage calmer kids. When anxiety and resistance in your child heightens, try to maintain your sense of calm before supporting them. When engaging with your kids, try using a calm voice, validating their concerns, using distractions, or modelling breathing exercises. If your child responds well to physical touch, a quick cuddle or hug goes a long way! There is scientific evidence to show that a hug with someone you feel safe with can help regulate the nervous system. I like this trick for adults and kids, and it’s a great way to connect with your child!


Navigating this period of transition can be tricky. Let’s be kind to ourselves and our kids- we’re all trying our best, and life is busy and demanding! When children struggle, parents and caregivers struggle, too. Please reach out if you need more tips or support on the issue!




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