10 Tips for Getting Kids Ready to Go Back to School
Parents everywhere know that preparation is key when it comes to helping kids gear up for going back to school. Here are a few tried-and-true tips that can help the transition go more smoothly.
Connect with Friends
Talking to friends in the neighborhood or from the previous school year can help reinforce the idea for kids that they’re all in it together. It also helps them get excited to go back to school if they know their friends will be there. You may be able to talk with the teacher to find out if any of your child’s friends will share the classroom with them in the upcoming school year. If your child is starting school for the first time or in a new area and doesn’t know anyone in their age group, contact your local community center or religious organization to find a peer group and connect them. A back-to-school party can be a great way to start the school year on a positive note and reconnect your child with friends new and old.
Visit the School Together
Attending back-to-school night or open house with your child can be a great introduction to not only the physical school environment but also the social environment. This will allow your child to see the classroom and tour the other areas of the school, and meet the other students. Meeting the new teacher, if possible, can help quell any fears and is a great ice-breaker. If the teacher is unavailable to meet or talk with by phone, engage your child in writing a letter or making the teacher a first-day-of-school card or gift to help establish a connection before the first day and calm any jitters. You can also look for the teacher’s picture in a yearbook or on the school website; sometimes it helps to put a name with a face. Older kids might want to give you the school tour!
Get Back into the Swing of Things
Experts advise easing back into the school schedule. About a week before school starts, help kids prepare by starting end-of-day and morning routines. Re-establish bedtimes and set an alarm in the morning, which can get earlier every day until you reach the school-day wake-up time. And, going through what school mornings will look like can help kids (and parents) get ready for the year ahead. This could mean making them breakfast in the morning, putting together lunches, and helping them choose outfits. Especially for younger children, it can be helpful to select outfits together a week ahead of time. Take a drive to the bus stop or to the school (if it applies to you) at the time you will be leaving in the morning to get a feel for how long it will take you—considering, of course, the increased traffic that is typical with the beginning of the school year.
Have a Homework Station
Establishing a designated homework area can help reinforce good study habits. The space can be somewhere quiet with as few distractions as possible. Or, it can be in a place like the kitchen, where you will be available to help with homework while you’re preparing dinner. Include caddies with everything your child needs—scratch paper; pens, pencils, and markers; calculators, and so on.
Set a timer that goes off at the same time every weekday after school—the homework timer. When they hear it, kids will know that it is time to turn off the TV, put down the games, and prepare to get the work done. The timer helps them get used to focusing for designated periods of time and can help develop a sense of time management. Address resistance with positively worded statements, like “You can play once you’ve finished your homework” instead of “You can’t play until your homework is done.” Making yourself available to help with homework will give your child the best chances of success.
Make the Most of the Last Days of Summer
Experts recommend that you support learning during the summer, but also that you allow children to have their downtime before school starts. Most teachers begin the school year by reviewing last year’s curriculum to refresh the memory and give kids the best foundation for learning new material. Drilling kids before school starts can have an adverse effect and drive anxiety by highlighting how much they’ve forgotten.
Shopping for back to school can be fun! Supply list in hand, letting kids pick out what they want can make them feel more involved in the process and more prepared for the brand new school year. Keeping the budget in mind, of course, allowing a few splurges can put a positive spin on what can otherwise be a nerve-inducing time for kids. That new backpack or those cool pens they picked out can help generate a feeling of excitement for returning on the big day.
Expect the Unexpected
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that kids sometimes get sick. Lining up a sitter ahead of time will make sure you are covered when you have to work or are otherwise unable to stay home with them. Try to have a list of several back-ups in case your main sitter can’t make it. It can be helpful to write down their names, schedules, and contact information on a list and place it on the fridge, in your wallet, and/or keep it in your smartphone so you have it handy whenever you need it.
What’s up, Doc?
Making sure your child’s immunizations are up-to-date before the school year begins can help minimize sick days and goes a long way toward keeping your child in optimal health throughout the year. And, taking care of their annual checkup beforehand will cross one more requirement off your to-do list and help to ensure a smooth transition into the school year.
Get Ahead of the Game
Most schools provide you with an informational packet before the school year begins. This often includes such things as important dates, bus routes, and emergency contact forms. Marking down dates on a calendar can help ensure nothing is missed and allows you to plan ahead and make room in your schedule to attend events. Be sure to read through all information provided and fill out any forms, making note of when these are due—whether that’s on the first day of school or beforehand. Be sure to include any forms that are due on the first day in your child’s backpack, and let your child know what to do with these forms. For younger children, you might want to hand-deliver the forms to the teacher or school office on the first day.
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