As a mom of four kids ranging in age from kindergarten to middle school, the start of each school year brings a lot of changes to our household. With these changes come a mix of emotions; excitement is met with a bit of anxiety. We will relish these last few weeks of summer and then jump into back-to-school mode. I’d love to share a few tips and tricks we implement to make a smoother transition back to school.
Top 5 tips for back-to-school:
Making sure children feel confident and excited about returning to school is one of the most important things parents can do to help their child. The enthusiasm we project sets the tone for their attitude. Many kids find the newness of each year to be a little intimidating. Remind your child of things that went well last year. From special times with friends to the awesome teachers they’ll soon see, encourage them to think about all the things they have to look forward to doing again.
If your student hit a rough patch last year, remind them that this is a new year and a fresh start. They will likely have a new teacher with new classmates which can change the entire classroom dynamic and learning environment. If your student struggled academically, now can be a great time to review those topics and skills so they start the school year feeling confident. Most importantly, tell your child how proud you are of them. Let them know that you believe this could be their most successful year yet!
It is empowering for kids to have a say in their day-to-day routines and schedule and there are few things better to promote buy-in from the whole family. Start off the new school year with a plan that you and your child create together. Encourage your child to think about how they will structure their after-school time. What activities do they want to participate in, and how will that impact their schedule? It’s important to help your child think through their workload when making this plan, especially as they get older and have more homework demands. Are there any new activities or clubs they want to check out? Is it realistic to be involved in two sports and three clubs? How much time will be needed for homework, and when will it be completed? If your student’s homework load is minimal, encourage them to use the “homework time” to read about something they are curious about, a fun book picked at the library. It can be a time to write and reflect, or even practice their math facts. The point is to carve out a consistent time for intentional learning.
Another fun way to get your child excited to go back to school is going school supply shopping. What kid is not excited to get new supplies? I also have found that supply lists can give terrific insight into the work ahead, and like to use them to talk about how they might be used with my kids. My kids love to write and draw so we often talk about what each composition notebook will hold. I can remember transitioning to high school and wondering how to use a compass and protractor in Geometry or how to navigate a graphing calculator. These tools can take some practice, so playing around and figuring things out before school starts can be helpful.
If your student will be going to a new school, plan to take a tour before school starts to help them feel more at ease on the first day of school. Many schools host a teacher meet and greet or back to school night before school starts which is another great opportunity for you and your student to meet their new teachers and get familiarized with the school and checkout their new classrooms, lockers, lunchroom, gym and more. This provided so much comfort to my oldest when she went off to middle school last year. Learning how to open a locker for the first time can be tricky. Navigating big hallways to get to classes on opposite sides of the building in short passing periods is also an intimidating task. So I strongly encourage practicing these skills before school starts for a much smoother transition to school.
Often during the summer we slip into a different, more relaxed routine with later bedtimes. My older kids shift the most often staying up past their normal bedtime and then sleeping late into the morning. To get back on track, I start a school-schedule with regular bedtimes and regular wake up times a couple weeks before school starts. It is probably the most important thing I do to help ease the stress of returning to school. This year, I am also going to have us practice their whole routine a few days before school starts. From picking out clothes and setting their alarm the night before to waking up and completing their morning ritual, getting in the car and heading to the bus stop.
It is not only important to consider the morning routine but also the flow of the after school schedule. Most kids need a little time to decompress after a long day of learning. Providing a healthy snack and then some time to get outside or do something active can be a great way to move into this part of the day. Once they have a bit of time to get some energy out, kids are more able to settle down to focus on homework.
Weekly check-ins are important for all ages, but it can be challenging getting some children to open up and chat about things as they get older. I know my middle school-age daughter would prefer alone time in her room instead of talking to me about every detail of her day, so sometimes it requires more effort to find out what is going on in their world. However, bedtime can be a great time to check-in and spend a little one-on-one time hearing about their day or how things are going with friends. You can inquire about the best and worst parts of their day or week. How is their homework load? Do they feel they have a good routine going? Finding a time that works for each of my kids, whether over a shared dinner or at bedtime, helps us stay connected during the school year!
I hope these tips help you prepare, and I wish you and your family a terrific new school year.