For many parents, August is just one long lead up to the beginning of school, which can be stressful if you have a new student in the family, or just a kid prone to worrying about new things. Starting school can be a fun experience — you just have to plan ahead and know what will help your child succeed in a new grade, or even a new school.
Although it’s tempting to try and extend summer as long as possible, planning ahead for the beginning of the school year will not only help alleviate fear and tension, it can even make your child excited for the upcoming challenges and opportunities ahead. Here are some of our best back-to-school tips, which will help you ensure a stress-free start to the academic year ahead.
1. Take advantage of meet-the-teacher nights and open houses
It’s understandable for your child to be nervous about going back to school. New schools, and even new grades, mean new faces, new teachers, new routines, and even more expectations than last year. It can be a lot to handle in the abstract, so take advantage of any open houses or meet-the-teacher nights in the weeks before school starts to introduce your child to their new teacher, and help them familiarize themselves with the school building. If your school doesn’t offer these services, you can visit the school building itself, and encourage your child to walk around the playground and explore the outside grounds.
2. Make sure your child knows a few people in their class
Many schools intentionally try and create new connections between their pupils by splitting up friend groups year to year and creating a compatible but not necessarily familiar group of students in each classroom. If your school gives out classroom directories in advance of the school year, make sure your child knows who is in their class, even if they’re not friends yet. You can even try and arrange playdates with families from the same class, so your child can re-familiarize themselves with the school friends that they may not have seen much over the summer.
3. Bring your child to help purchase supplies
One of the best things about going back to school is purchasing brand new supplies — fresh pens and pencils, spotless erasers, and binders and notebooks that are clean and ready to use. It can make even the most school-averse person change their tune. A great way to help your child build up some excitement about the upcoming year is to take them back-to-school shopping at your local paper supply store. Make sure you get everything on the school’s supply list, but involve your child in the process, and let them choose supplies that appeal to them.
4. Ease back into the school-year routine
It can be extremely jarring to go from total relaxation for two months to the grind of waking up early without any preparation beforehand. A great way to help prepare your child for school both mentally and physically is to start moving towards the school schedule about two weeks before the actual start of school. Many schools start at 8 a.m. or earlier, so you want to make sure that your child is able to be up and functional at that time by the time Labor Day rolls around. You can start off slowly, and gradually transition to earlier wake up calls and bedtimes, so that everyone in the family is back into the school groove by the time the first day rolls around.
5. Shift their focus to extracurriculars if they aren’t excited about class work
If your child is nervous about school work, or dreading the prospect of having to do homework again, try and lighten the mood by shifting the focus to the other aspects of school that they enjoy, like friends, and extracurricular activities. Try and remind them that although doing well in school is important, being a well-rounded, active member of the student body is important too. If you know what extracurriculars your school offers, get them excited by discussing their options for the school year, and encouraging them to try new things.
6. Help your child choose a first-day outfit
If your child is consumed with nerves about the first day of school and is worrying about things that are impossible to control, try and shift their focus to something that they can control, like their outfit for the first day. Make sure they know how much confidence a favorite outfit can bring if they’re feeling nervous. Encourage them to pick out an outfit themselves — it doesn’t need to be something specifically purchased for the occasion, but that is an option if you have the means. Shifting the focus to manageable problems instead of dwelling on their fears is a great way to encourage excitement about their new start.
7. Make a homework station and work together
One of the ways that you can ensure a positive start to the school year is by setting aside a dedicated area for homework right from the start. It can even be a place where everyone in the family works together, like the family office, or a small area of the kitchen. Before school starts, clean out this area, and get it ready for the school year. Stock the area with everything your child needs for homework, like pencils, a calculator, and paper, and encourage them to use it for quiet play or reading before the start of the school year. That way, they’ll already associate the area with quiet focus, and won’t have to be reminded to use the area once school starts back up again.
8. Tidy up summer clutter
Summer is a great time for families to spend time together, whether that’s taking a long trip away, or just doing fun activities on a more regular basis that allow you to unplug and recharge as a family. While these activities are extremely beneficial to family bonding and harmony, they can often leave our house covered in a layer of clutter that’s not conducive to an organized start to the school year. Before school starts, dedicate a day to decluttering the family living space — vacuuming up sand from the entryway, finally putting those suitcases back into storage, and getting a handle on all the piles of junk mail. That way, you’ll go into September with a clean slate.
9. Schedule regular family time
One of the perpetual worries about going back to school that’s common among both children and adults is that the start of school will lead to less family time. While this is likely true, you can help assuage some of your child’s fears by asking them to help you organize at least one fun family activity every week. It can be something as simple as ordering pizza together every Friday night, or a weekly family movie night, but just knowing that family time is still a priority can help alleviate some anxiety. It also gives them something to look forward to after the first week of school.
10. Work out a plan for school paperwork
One of the things that can be overwhelming about the start of school is the sheer amount of paperwork that comes home with your child in the first few days. Field trip permission forms, health and allergy info sheets, photography permission forms—it seems never ending. If you want to stay on top of all these forms—that are likely coming home crushed into the bottom of a backpack—you’ll need to plan ahead. Ask your children to help you come up with a foolproof paper-delivery system that works for them, whether it’s pinning the papers on the fridge, or tucking them into their empty lunch box. Make sure to emphasize that their ability to participate in school trips and other fun activities depends on it.
11. Stock up on some favorite snacks for the first week back
If you know that your child is anxious about the first week of school, bring a smile to their face by stocking up on some of their favorite feel-good snacks, and have them ready for them when they get back home for the day. It’s a simple gesture, but it shows that you’re thinking of them. Try and keep the snacks healthy, with enough protein to keep them going until dinner time.