Most schools start up in the next couple of weeks, and that means that big transitions are ahead for your family. Here are some tips to help it all go smoothly:
Visit the school / Meet the new teacher
Many kids are anxious about what their new teacher will be like. Taking advantage of open house and back-to-school nights will help reassure kids about what's to come. You can also find their desk and check out the playground.
Even if you can't visit with the teacher in person, see if you can find their picture on the school website or in an old yearbook so your child can put a name with a face. If the new teacher send a welcome letter or email, read it with your child so they can feel connected.
Mark your calendar
Sit down with your planner or calendar and mark all the important dates for the entire year. Do it now in one sitting, while you're still motivated to be organized. Also, keep a single and easy-to-access file for vaccination records and other important papers.
Re-establish bedtime / mealtime routines
One week before school starts, re-establish bedtime and mealtime routines, whatever those may be for your family. Routines make kids feel comfortable. Talk with them about how routines can benefit them, including not being over tired or overwhelmed by school work and activities.
Avoid chaos by practicing your routine a few days in advance. Set the alarm clock, go through your morning rituals, and get in the car or to the bus stop on time.
Reconnect with friends
Get together with a few of your child's friends from school to rebuild their social relationships. A familiar friend can make all the difference when your child is nervous about the first day back. .
Make a tradition of back-to-school shopping
Any time I walk into an Office Max or Office Depot, even as an adult, it smells like back-to-school time to me. There's nothing like a trip to Target or an office supply store to get in the back-to-school mood and to help your child feel excited and prepared for the new year. Allow for one splurge like a cool pen or notebook to make it more fun. To save money, take an inventory of last year's school supplies before going out to buy more.
This is a good time to take an inventory your kids' wardrobes and toss/donate things they've outgrown.
Choose extracurriculars wisely
Psychologists recommend aiming for quality over quantity when it comes to extra activities. Go for one or two that are fun, social, and teach new skills. Consider staying away from activities that may demand too much time for your family's schedule, disrupt the dinner hours, or are located far away. Too much scheduled time can cause unnecessary stress, especially for young children, and may make it harder to concentrate on schoolwork. Extracurriculars can be so expensive! To save money, check out your local library for monthly programming.
Refresh your rules about screen time
Be clear about what's allowed and when. Remove things like mobile devices from kids' bedrooms to help them sleep.
Help your kids organize themselves
Let your child choose a planner or app that they're excited to use. Show them how you use yours and help them get set up. Try apps like iHomework or MyHomeWork can help your kids organize assignments.
Prep lunches (and dinners)
If you're packing lunches, make it easy on yourself for the first couple of weeks by freezing sandwiches that you can grab easily, and by stocking up on healthy snacks that you can add to lunch boxes.
The first weeks will be much easier on you if you have dinners ready to go. Make a plan for the first couple weeks of dinner.
Select a spot for backpacks / lunch boxes
Designate a spot for your children to place their school belongings at the end of the day. Remind them regularly until it becomes part of their routine. Let them know it's their responsibility to empty their backpack each day. Create an inbox for kids to leave things that need your attention, like permission slips.
Designate a homework space
For older kids, a space in their bedroom or another quiet area is ideal, while younger children need an area set aside in a main area of the house where you can supervise them. Remove distractions like TVs and video game consoles from homework areas.
Create an after-school schedule
Set a schedule that allows time for snack, relaxation, play and study. Establish a set "Family Time," such as dinner or a story before bedtime. Consider setting a regular alarm each day that signals the start of homework time and thirty minutes before bedtime.
If you child is anxious or if the first day doesn't go well, let them know it's totally normal to be nervous anytime they start something new, but that they'll be fine once they become familiar with their new class, teacher, and routine. Model optimism and confidence for them. Send a note in their lunch box or backpack to let them know you're thinking of them. Give your child a few strategies to manage anxiety of their own, and encourage them to talk to their teacher if they continue to feel anxious.
If your child had a difficult time last year, such as being teased or bullied, be sure to share your child's experience with the school and confirm that it has been addressed. Reassure your child that the problem will not happen again and that you're working with the school to make sure of that.
Do something fun together
It's a busy time of year. Plan something fun to do together to alleviate the stress that comes with all of these new transitions. Go apple picking, go on a small hike in a a local park, or visit your favorite restaurant together.