Back to School

Back to school

Summer break often brings a relaxed time of renewal and connection for families. Back to school marks an end to that. Your child must go from weeks of recreation to a time of hard work and learning. With some smart planning and a positive attitude, this annual period of change can become a special marker of growth and meaning in your family's life. 

Talk With Your Child or Teen About Returning to School

It is normal to feel some anxiety about any upcoming change in your life. Your child is no different. He may have a range of concerns about what the new school year will bring. 

By talking with your child about how he is feeling about beginning or returning to school, you can help support him, so he can look forward to the new year, instead of worrying about upcoming changes. 

Your child's feelings are real to him, so avoid telling him that he does not really feel a certain way. Rather, try to address how realistic the situation he may be worried about is and help brainstorm strategies that can help him avoid a potential pitfall. 

If your child says he is worried that his teacher won't like him, you can let him know that teachers choose their career because they enjoy helping children. Explore your child's positive traits and how these traits will be appreciated by others at school.

Think Through Your Back-to-School Daily Routine Early

Most kids get to sleep in during the summer months. It can take a couple of weeks for children to get comfortable with a new sleep schedule. If you still have a few weeks before school, start with adjusting sleep times so that they align more closely with those that will need to be followed when class is in session. If the new year is already upon you, just work to make these changes as soon as you can.

To determine your child's school year sleep schedule, find out when her school day will start, then look at what time she will have to leave home in the morning to arrive at school on time. Count back the number of hours of sleep your child will need. This is her "lights out" time. Have her bedtime routine start early enough that she can have lights off by the time you calculated.

Then move on to other parts of the daily routine that may need modification. Other habits and routines to ideally get established before school begins include:

  • Get the next day's clothes picked out the night before. 
  • Have an established place to put all school materials that your child will take to school. This is commonly called the "launch pad."
  • Practice getting to school a few times before the first day. Practice walking, riding a bicycle, or riding in the car. Make sure your child knows her route to and from school. Some school districts offer practice bus riding days before school. Take advantage of this if offered and your child will ride the school bus.
  • Write out a daily or weekly schedule of where your child will be and when. Include bedtimes, wake-up times, school hours, commute times, meal times, extracurricular activities, and free time. Look over this to make sure your child will be getting her needs met and that her schedule is realistic.

Be Well-Supplied When School Starts

Getting the items on the school supply list is only part of what your kids will really need to have a great school year. Here are some suggestions for other things you may want to consider purchasing or doing to help ease this lifestyle transition and make it more enjoyable:

  • Include a few fun school supplies that aren't on the list. This could range from funky erasers to colored gel pens, colorful organizers to speciality folders. 
  • Make sure your child or teen has a well-fitting, quality backpack. Personalize it with fabric paint, zipper pulls, or patches to suit your child's taste.
  • Set up a homework corner. It should be organized, so your child can complete his homework and enjoy the space. This is another area where you may be able to add unique organizers and decor to match your child's interests.
  • Add some noteworthy pieces to your child's back-to-school wardrobe. Try to have a special outfit that your child will look forward to wearing to school on the first day. 
  • Think about back-to-school mini-makeovers. This could involve a new haircut, a manicure, new jewelry, or other accessories. The idea is to add some special touches that your child will enjoy. This can also help to increase confidence on the first day back to school. Think about how you feel when you know you look good. Children and teens enjoy a boost to their appearance, too.
  • Electronic and tech devices often go on sale at back-to-school time. New computer or mobile devices may actually help your child access homework help and get reminders from the school about assignments.

Have Some Fun Back-to-School Traditions

Taking time to mark transitions in our lives helps us adjust. Turning back to school into a celebration is a great way to keep a positive attitude about the change. 

  • Enjoy a Special Family Breakfast: Take your children out for a special meal before school starts, or simply sit at the kitchen table together and enjoy something home-cooked.
  • Attend Any Back-to-School Socials: Many schools have a before-school event where children and parents can come to meet teachers and see the school. Often the school will announce classroom placements at these events. This is a great time to meet the new teachers, see the classroom your child will be in, and even meet or see friends. 
  • Make a Time Capsule: Find a small box and fill it with current photos, a few interesting objects that relate to your child's life at that moment in time, and a note describing your child's appearance, likes, dislikes, skills, and more. Decide if your family will open up the time capsule as a last-day-of-school tradition, or if you plan to open several time capsules once the current level of school (elementary, middle, or high school) is completed.
  • Have a Party the Night Before: Have family and friends come over for a back-to-school themed party. You can pass out school supplies as door prizes, or play games centered around answering school trivia. Be sure to make it fun, take pictures, and talk about the positive benefits of going back to school.
  • Take First Day of School Pictures: Many families have a tradition of getting a picture of their children before they leave for their first day of school each year. Some families like to have each child hold a paper or chalkboard sign with the child's grade level and the words "First Day of School" written on it. You can build on this tradition by taking a last-day-of-school photo with your child wearing the same outfit (shows how much they have grown) or holding up their first-day-of-school photo. 

A Word From Verywell

Back-to-school traditions are great ways to build enthusiasm about school. Parents can help keep the enthusiasm high by being involved in their children's education. Involved parents show, through their dedication of time and energy, that school and academic success are important. Modeling this will teach your child to value school as well.

Remember, the transition of back-to-school time can be stressful. Celebrating this change each year can help ease some of the stress for families. Each family and each school child is unique. The way that your family will make back to school special each year will be as unique and special as your family is.

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