Even children and teens who usually contract the back to school blues can get excited about school after a long summer vacation.
The first day of school in the fall means new school supplies, new subjects, new teachers, and new friends (or reunions with old friends who weren’t around during the summer). The novelty of a new school year can get even the children who are the least academically inclined excited for school – at least temporarily.
But the return to school after winter break is different. Children haven’t been out of school long enough for the break to become monotonous, and after the buildup of all of the winter holidays, returning to business as usual can just feel like a letdown.
How can you help your children combat the back to school blues after the winter break? Take a look at some tips that can help.
Invest in Some New School Supplies
If you’re like many parents, you probably try to buy most of the school supplies your children need during the weeks before school starts in the fall when many retailers have sales on the most commonly-needed supplies. But if you have some Christmas gift cards or extra cash near the end of the winter break, it’s worth taking your child or teen shopping for a few new supplies.
Even if they don’t absolutely need them, a fresh notebook, some colored pencils, or a few fun pens can go a long way to liven up the return to school after a break. School supplies have a cheering effect on a lot of people – both children and adults.
There’s so much possibility in a blank notebook or a new pen that feels just right in your hand that it’s hard not to feel at least a little bit excited about using them. School supplies are relatively inexpensive, so this can be a fun and cost friendly way to help your child get their academic groove back after the winter break.
The return to school may signal the end of the winter holiday, but it’s not the end of the winter.
Your child may be starting to feel a bit cooped up by the time they’re returning to school, particularly if you live in an area with harsh winters. Between the classroom and the tendency to stay inside when the weather is cold, your child may not be getting a lot of outdoor activity.
But even in the winter, getting outside is good for your child. Your children and teenagers need physical activity and exposure to natural light (and so do you!) More exposure to sunlight can help ward off back to school blues, and physical activity produces chemicals in the brain that can help lift the mood.
So, if your teens seem a little down about returning to school, get them outside for some ice skating, sledding, or even a snowball fight. As long as they’re dressed appropriately for the weather, it’s perfectly healthy for young people to spend time outdoors even in cold temperatures, and it’s a very effective way to beat the blues.
Look Ahead for Fun Activities
For many children and teens, it’s not just returning to school that’s a bummer, it’s the fact that the holiday or vacation they’ve been looking forward to for weeks or months is over.
The anticipation of a fun vacation or exciting holiday can often do more than the event itself to keep your child’s spirits up, and for many children, the winter holidays are the most anticipated time of the year. Once they’re over, the letdown can be depressing, and the next exciting event can seem agonizingly far in the future.
But chances are good that there are things coming up that your children can be excited about and plan for, like:
- A game, pep rally, play, or dance at school,
- A community event like a carnival, fair, show, or
- An upcoming weekend to plan an event like a slumber party, day trip, or other family outing.
Put simply, your child may just need something to look forward to. Find or plan an event in the next few weeks or months and put it on your child’s radar, so that they have something new to anticipate.
Plan Ahead to Get Back to the School Routine
The winter break may not be as long as a summer vacation, but it’s enough time for your child to get out of their regular school routine.
If your teen has been staying up late and sleeping in, the first day back can be overwhelming and exhausting. Plan ahead to get your child into gear for their first day back by gradually rolling back the bedtime and getting up a little earlier each day in the week or so before your child returns to school.
Make sure that you’ve got your organization down – have your child pack their backpack and pick out clothes to wear the first day back. Consider making some meals ahead of time and freezing them so that dinner is taken care of during their first week back – this will give you some more free time for activities with your child. If your child takes a packed lunch to school, you can also try packing all of the week’s lunches in one day to free up time during the rest of the week.
Don’t wait until the last minute to locate library books and other materials that your child will need to return to school with on their first day back – sometimes these types of items get buried under other things during the winter break. The more organized you are and the more preparation you do to help your child ease back into their normal routine, the easier it will be for them.
Winter back to school blues are a real thing, but you don’t have to let them take over.
There are plenty of ways to beat the blues and help keep your child’s spirits up after the winter break.
Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and Founder and Executive Director of Paradigm Treatment Centers, who has been a respected leader in the field of adolescent mental health for more than 20 years. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, his Master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, his Doctoral degree from Pacific University’s APA approved Clinical Psychology program, and completed his training at the University of California, San Diego’s APA approved psychology internship program.
Dr. Nalin has provided training and mentoring to students entering the field of psychology at institutions of learning including Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, UCSD, Pacific University, and Santa Monica College. He was also instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.
Dr. Nalin has appeared as an expert on shows ranging from CBS News and Larry King, to CNN, The Today Show and MTV. He was also featured in an Anti-Drug Campaign for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
Dr. Nalin is a Diplomate of the National Institute of Sports Professionals and a Certified Sports Psychologist as well as a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist. He lectures and conducts workshops nationally on the issues of teen mental health, substance abuse prevention, and innovative adolescence treatment.
In 2017 Dr. Nalin was awarded The Sigmund Freud Foundation and Sigmund Freud University’s Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of his work with youth in the field of mental health over the course of his career.