It’s hard to believe but the school year is right around the corner. Back to school can be a time filled with many emotions for both you as a parent and your children. Excitement, anxiety, stress, nervousness and even relief are all normal emotions for this time of year. Whether you are sending a child off for the first time, transitioning from elementary to middle school or just lamenting the end of summer, transitions and adjustments can be difficult on the whole family. But fear not, a rocky start can be avoided with a little planning and thoughtfulness.
1. Establish or re-establish your school year routine before school starts
Summer days bring longer days and maybe your kids haven’t had to really get up for anything scheduled so bedtimes may be all out of whack. By starting to implement regular (and perhaps earlier) bedtimes you can help prepare your child for the more structured routine to come and allow them to return to school well rested.
Regular mealtimes (and nutritious meals) may also have gone by the wayside during the summer. Adding these back in now will be helpful for when they become necessary when school and extra-curricular activities begin. Perhaps start with implementing a regular breakfast time each day.
You can also help your child get back into the “learning” mode by reducing the amount of TV they watch or other screen time and having them do more “quiet” activities such as reading, puzzles or art projects.
2. Organize your home
Having a designated spot for backpacks and lunch boxes is key so it’s not such a pile up at the back door at the end of each day. This will also be a life-saver in the morning so everyone can just grab and go instead of frantically searching for what they need.
Designating a homework spot ahead of time is also a good idea, especially as it may require clearing and/or cleaning out a place in your home.
Along with school comes lots of paperwork and information so having a file box, file drawer, or another place to keep all of this “stuff” organized and accessible will make life easier. (Otherwise, it may just pile up on your newly cleared out homework station!)
You probably have a datebook or keep your calendar on your smartphone. A whiteboard calendar or chalkboard posted in a central location can be quite helpful. You can post all the things you have going on for the month and this way the whole family can see what’s on the schedule each day. Color code by family member if you are so inclined!
If you are really feeling like a super-mom (or dad) freeze some meals ahead of time for those really crazy, chaotic days. (And if not, there’s always take-out, right?)
3. Clear the calendar for the first week of school
If you work outside of the home try to keep your work schedule light this first week. Avoid scheduling any trips, extra activities or late meetings. If you can arrange it, be home after school this first week. This goes for your kids’ schedules too; try to keep things simple. This is a big and tiring week and it will make it easier if you are physically there to help your child acclimate to this new schedule. They will likely have lots to talk about so being available to discuss their day and ease any worries can lead to a much more peaceful transition.
It can also be fun to establish a first day of school tradition. Perhaps it’s making cookies the night before or going out to dinner after that first day. Whatever you choose to do, a tradition is something that is comforting and will make starting school something to look forward to.
4. Stay positive
Children can sense and absorb a parent’s anxiety, so it’s important to keep a positive outlook on heading back to school. If you are enthusiastic and excited, they will be too.
A new situation or the residual from negative experiences from the previous year can understandably cause feelings of fear or anxiety in both children and parents. Listening to your kid’s feelings, having conversations and reassuring their young minds about whatever is worrying them can do wonders.
Remind your kids of all the positive things about school, including some of the cool things they did the year before, friends they made, field trips and activities they were involved in. As bittersweet as these milestones can be for parents, sending your kids off to school is an exciting opportunity for them to learn, grow and develop. (And if you need to, have a good cry after they get on the bus, it’s OK!)