Transitioning into a New School Year | Q&A with Coach Sara

Today’s Topic: Transitioning into a New School Year


About Me

Hello everyone.  I’m Coach Sara, one of the five coaches for Complete Performance Coaching.  We do online mental toughness training in our Perform Happy community and we also do one-on-one coaching for athletes to help them get them more mentally tough and more mentally prepared for sport.

I’m live today on our Complete Performance Coaching page and I’m so excited to be here with you.  We are going to be talking about back to school blues.

I had a parent ask me just the other day,

Q: “What is going on with my child now that we’re back in school?  She’s moody, she doesn’t want to go to practice, and she’s stressing because season is around the corner. Just a couple of weeks ago she was totally fine.  What is going on?”



I will tackle that question with advice to help you and your child as we address back to school blues.  Now here we are, right after Labor Day.  Some kids have just gone back.  My son and his school district have been back in school for three weeks already.  I know everyone starts at a different time, but chances are your child is just getting started or they’re still in the early stages of getting back into school after that summer break.  The start of a new school year can present challenges for any kid, because they’re just transitioning out of that summer mode.  But especially for our athletes.  That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Transitioning Back Into School

Going back to school is a big transition time.  Your kids are coming off of that summer break where they didn’t have school, they didn’t have homework, they just had more time.  One part of their lives was just so much easier to manage because they didn’t have to worry about it.  They didn’t have school, they didn’t have homework, they didn’t have that extra level of stress.

We don’t have to shuffle them between school and then sport and it’s just a much more relaxed time for typically most of the time for most of us.  So now they’re thrown back into school, there’s this extra part of life that they have to manage.  It’s really normal that there can be this transition time for kids as they get back to school.  It’s hard for parents because we feel like, “Well, you’ve done this before.  You go back to school every year.  It’s fine, let’s just get going.”  That’s not always the case.  It’s not always that easy to get used to that transition.

Then it becomes stressful for parents and it becomes stressful for kids and really, they’re just out of the habit.  There’s a few things that we can do for our kids and with our kids to ultimately help with this transition back into school and to beat some of those back to school blues.

Transitions Are Happening, Acknowledge Them

Tip number one – remember that there are transitions happening.  I think it’s just so easy to think, “Well we do this every year.  We go back to school, summer wasn’t that long.”  It’s a transition for them and so they’re transitioning both out of summer and into school.

After school gets out, literally at the end of their day, there’s a transition that happens.  It’s very normal for kids of any age to become sort of irritable and moody right after school, complaining they’re tired, because guess what?  They’ve been in school all day. They have been focusing and keeping it together, regulating their emotions and working really hard to focus.

It’s very normal for them to want time to transition when they are done with school for the day.  This is when they can kind of relax a little bit, which is great, but sometimes that comes across as they’re moodier than usual or they’re just whiny, they’re extra tired and it doesn’t quite make sense.  But again, that’s very normal at the end of a school day as your child transitions out of that.

Let Your Athlete Decompress

Give them the space and the time to decompress after school, and really be careful of rushing them directly into homework and studying, even though they probably have practice really soon.  It’s important to maximize that time in between school and practice.  Just know you might be fighting a really tough battle, because that time right after school might be a bit of a challenge for them.

Now, as the school year progresses, they’re probably going to get more used to this after school time.  You won’t notice that tough transition as much, but just be aware, especially as we get back into school, there’s a lot of regulating that happens during the school day, and they’re not as good at it when they come home. This is true of any age.

Remind Your Athlete of Their Progress

Tip number two to help deal with these back to school blues is to remind your kids about the mental skills that they have been learning with us.  Part of why I love working with youth and teenage athletes is because the mental skills that we teach for sport are life skills too.  As they are going through some of these challenges in school like, oh, I’m tired, ask, “How do you pick your energy up when you’re at practice?”

Or, maybe they tell you’re they’re nervous for a test.  You can ask, “Well, how do you get yourself to deal with those nerves for a competition?”

Remind your athletes that they have mental skills. They are developing their mental toughness, and it’s not just for sport – it’s for life, too.

Talk About It

Really talk about some of the stress that can come up as school is going on.  I know for some schools, especially our younger kids, the beginning of the year maybe isn’t super stressful, but there are still times that they can use these mental skills. If they’re still getting nervous when they go into the room with their new teacher, they don’t know everyone yet. Remind them, “Take a nice deep breath to calm yourself down.  Give yourself a nice positive thought to keep you going.”

Encourage Your Athlete

Encourage them to use these mental skills, and also be really clear, tell them, “You know what?  School and life are perfect times to be using the mental skills that you’re learning with your mental toughness coaches.”  The more your athletes use these skills in school, in life, the better they become in sport.

For your athletes who are really motivated and focused by what’s going on in their sport world, that’s a great way to encourage them to keep using these mental skills, because they might be more inclined to use them in school and in life and feel their benefits.  If they start to understand that, that actually helps them out when they’re back in sport.

Remember to Have Fun

My third tip for dealing with back to school blues is to make sure they’re having fun. When summer ends and you’re back to the grind of normal life, it’s really easy to drop things like going to the movies.

You don’t have as much time, or you don’t let them have slightly later nights because now they have school the next day.  What happens is you end up (without meaning to), dropping a lot of the things that were really fun in the summer, because summer is over.

The truth is, if our kids don’t continue to have fun outside of school and outside of sport, then the other areas of life, like school and sport, start to become less fun and start to suffer.  Even though your time is going to be tighter now, and there’s just more on your schedule, be sure to make sure you have fun activities and your kids have something to look forward to outside of their commitments.

Set Time Aside for Fun

Maybe it can’t be movies every week, but maybe it’s the last weekend of the month. You’re going to make sure you have time to go to the movies, or if your kids are of an age they don’t really want to spend that much time with you right now, then you can be sure to plan something on the schedule where they have a good block of time where they can hang out with their friends.

You just want to make sure they don’t become overly scheduled.  This can happen sometimes as we transition out of summer.  If you take too many summer activities over into the school year, something will suffer.  There’s probably not a thing as too much fun, but there’s definitely a thing as too many activities, even if those activities are all really exciting and really awesome.

Discuss Your Priorities with Your Family

Related to that, and this fourth tip is for everyone, is to talk about priorities as a family.  I’d say this is especially true for high schoolers.  Elementary school parents, this is just good for you to mentally check in on.  Middle school, junior high families, you might want to have these conversations with your kids.  It’s important to prioritize what is important to us as a family because there will come a time when there just aren’t enough hours in the day, and something is going to have to give.

Often times for our high schoolers, they cut back on sleep.  If you have a high schooler, you’ve probably seen those times where there’s too many tests, too many papers, and they’re in the height of season, so they’re going to practice, and of course they care about school, so they just stay up really late, and then they’re fried the next day.

Or, they do that for a few days, and then they’re running on empty and that’s not good. You want to proactively discuss what’s most important.  Is it school?  Sport?  Your overall wellbeing, including sleep?

Be Proactive

I would say that one is probably most important.  Discuss as a family, again proactively, what do you do when you get overwhelmed?  Again, this is going to happen, especially for our high school athletes.  They are going to get overwhelmed. They’re going to have lots of homework.  They’re going to have projects, going to be preparing for SATs and AP tests and all of that.  Decide proactively as a family, how are you going to deal when this happens, so that fights don’t occur.

Your athlete may be very motivated in school, and they might actually get upset if you say, “You know what, I think it’s time to go to bed.  You’ve done enough for the night.” They might say, “Well no, I need to study because I have this test tomorrow.”  But you know if they don’t get enough sleep, they won’t do as well as they want to on the test.

Have a Plan

This is a tip for now as school is getting up and running, that will hopefully prepare you for those more overwhelming moments, but again, have a plan.  Maybe you decide as a family that when you get to these overwhelming times, your athlete is going to skip one practice to catch up.  School is a little bit more of a priority than sport in that situation, and overall wellbeing and balance is really at the top.  So maybe as a family you decide to skip one practice.  You really stay focused on getting caught up in school.

Perhaps you do some imagery to help make up for that missed practice time.  Then you go to sleep on time and you’re prepared for everything.  Or maybe if sport is more of the priority, because you have a big meet coming up, perhaps your athlete forgoes a night of schoolwork.   This will give them more time to sleep.  They can talk with their teacher later to get some extra time.

Transitioning into a New School YearFind Alternative Solutions

If you are doing these proactively, if this is a high schooler, I’d say have your high schooler do the following: have them talk to their teachers and say, “You know what, a month from now, I have a really big point in my season.  I have nationals.  I noticed on the syllabus this is also when there’s a lot of work due.  Is there any way I could get an extension or turn it in early?

Be talking with the teachers proactively about balancing out that workload if it really matches up with your athlete sports schedule, which a lot of times it does, because when it rains it pours.  Of course there would be a huge meet, a huge paper, a huge test, a driving test, a dance, and all these things all happening at the same time, because that’s what happens.

Again, that fourth tip to deal with these back to school blues and what can happen as school ramps up, is to go over priorities as a family and decide what you’ll do, so that you don’t have any of those fights.

Talk With Your Athlete

My last tip for today, my fifth tip, is to talk to your kids about how they’re feeling about everything.  They need to know it’s normal as school gets started to feel overwhelmed, or stressed, or to be bummed that they have to go to school again.  All of that is normal.  Remind them, “You know what, you will get back into the groove.”  There are natural transition times.  I would encourage you to ask your child what you can do to help ease that transition and how you can help them get back into the routine.

Sometimes, as parents, we forget that we did things that made it easier at the beginning of the year.  Maybe it was getting their lunches ready or helping them manage time a little bit more because we remember the end of the year, where they were putting their lunch together on their own and they got their books and they got to school on time.  We forget way back in August or September when they couldn’t remember which classes they had each day, and they couldn’t quite remember which book they needed, and getting their lunch.

Handholding Isn’t a Bad Thing

Even though your kids are getting older, and they can take on more responsibilities, in the beginning of the year, to kind of deal with these back to school blues and this challenging transition, you can do a little bit more handholding with them.

It’s like, oh, they get their lunches ready, but guess what? If they’re feeling kind of that overwhelm of everything happening again new at the beginning of the year, it might be nice to help them with their lunch or ask, “Hey, do you want me to help you get your lunch ready for the first couple weeks of school?”

Typically as the year progresses, they’re going to get back into the groove.  They can take on more of those things on their own.

You’re Not Alone

Those are my five best tips to help you and your kids deal with this back to school transition.  Again, it’s a challenging time for everybody and if you can help your kids lower their stress level and ease into that transition a little bit more, it’s going to be better for us as parents.  It goes both ways.  When we’re feeling more relaxed, happy, and calm, they are too.

Know that this transition time is very normal.  It’s usually temporary.  So take the time now to figure out how we as parents can help our athletes so that they can ultimately succeed as they get back into the swing of things.

Hopefully these tips have been helpful.  If you need any more support from us, you can check us out.

We’ve got Coaching One on One for mental skills for your athletes and you can check out and perhaps join our Perform Happy community, where we’ve got online mental toughness training led by coach Rebecca.

Thank you for joining and we’ll see you next time.

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.