You know the expression, “it’s just like riding a bike?"
When it comes to being a kid, school is not like riding a bike. It’s more like playing a musical instrument–if you stop practicing, you slowly lose the progress you’ve made.
We know that breaks are necessary for your kids’ well-being (like a vacation) or unavoidable for safety reasons (like quarantine). However, without continuous practice, even the best students start to lose some of the progress they’ve made. How can parents help their kids hit the ground running when going back to school?
As leaders in school-adjacent education, we’ve helped many families keep their kids on track despite regressions. Read on for our best tips for back-to-school regression.
Signs of Back-to-School Regression in Kids
“Learning loss” is a hot topic due to school closures, but the problem is nothing new. Most schools prepare for learning loss and regression in kids every year after summer and winter break.
How do teachers tell which students need extra help getting caught up academically? They watch for a variety of red flags, including:
- Low grades on assignments
- Lack of classroom participation
- Student discouragement
Experienced teachers also keep an eye on their students' social and emotional well-being. They look for warning signs such as:
- Withdrawal from friends
- Lack of interest in favorite activities
- Trouble focusing
At home, regression can look a little different:
- Immature behaviors (such as tantrums)
- Trouble sleeping
- Being irritable or restless
When teachers (and parents!) catch regressions early, they can intervene and ensure that a bit of backsliding doesn't turn into a big issue.
Types of Regression
Research shows that the average kid forgets 17-34% of the things they’ve learned in a school year over that year’s summer break. That’s during a typical year with a regular-length summer break. Learning loss can be augmented by unexpected school closures and stressful situations such as a pandemic.
Back-to-school means catching up with old friends, seeing people you don’t get along with, and meeting new peers and teachers. It can be overwhelming for students who have gotten used to their quiet home, especially if they are introverted or struggle with social anxiety. This can lead to social regression in kids.
When kids struggle to readjust to the academic and social pressures of school, they might seem to regress emotionally or have immature behaviors, such as temper tantrums or bedwetting. School readjustment stress is challenging for kids, which is why they come home so exhausted the first few weeks! If your child doesn’t seem to bounce back to normal after a few weeks, they might need extra support to stay mentally healthy.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the pandemic has contributed to unprecedented emotional regression in students. They recently declared a National State of Emergency in Children’s Mental Health and urged the increased implementation of school-based mental health care.
How Regression Can Affect Kids Short-term and Long-term
Teachers aren’t surprised when kids come back from breaks knowing less than when they left. The first few weeks of school are often spent assessing student learning and reviewing previous material. The slow pace of the first few weeks back to school helps kids get their bearings socially and emotionally, too.
Teachers know that with rapid assessment and intervention, most back-to-school regressions end up being no big deal. However, unaddressed regression in kids can quickly lead to problems, including:
- Trouble keeping up with peers
- Grade decline
- Trouble making or keeping friends
Long-term, these problems can turn into:
- Low academic achievement
- Poor self-image and/or mental health
- Diminished opportunities
Five Tips to Help your Child through Back-to-School Regression
If you’re wondering how to get your child back to school as smoothly as possible, you’ve come to the right place. Here are our top five tips for back-to-school regression:
- Don’t be surprised. Your child needs to know that you can help them handle whatever struggles they face. Don’t be shocked, angry, or overwhelmed if they share that they are behind academically or struggling emotionally. Let them know that you are here to help.
- Have a Plan. Watch out for any extra support the school district may be offering your student. Find out which teachers offer tutoring or after-school office hours. Get to know the school counselor or social worker. Being aware of these resources will help you understand what to do if you see signs of trouble.
- Include the teachers. Aside from you, teachers are your child’s biggest advocate. If you’re worried that your student will struggle with back-to-school regression, enlist their teachers to keep an eye out. Ask the teacher to let you know at the first sign of academic, social, or emotional trouble.
- Ask for help. If district support isn’t cutting it, there are hundreds of resources available to students in the community and online. Outschool offers classes and tutoring in every academic subject, as well as social and wellness learning. If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, you can enlist a therapist. Extracurricular activities give kids extra chances to reconnect with friends. You don’t have to do it by yourself–there are hundreds of programs available to ensure your child succeeds.
- Be flexible. If one solution doesn’t seem to work, don’t give up. It may take some time and effort to get your child back on track. If one idea isn’t working, try something else! Every kid is different, and every pathway to school success is, too.
For more tips on learning loss, check out Take Back Your Kids' Education