No matter how old your children are, going back to school after a relaxing summer can have its challenges. With a little pre-planning, though, you and your child can feel great about this year’s adventure. Here are back to school tips to help your child (and you!) get ready to learn and grow.
Pre-K and Kindergarten
Kids who are just starting school have the unique challenge of not knowing what to expect from school itself. Even if they went to daycare, grade school is a new experience. The best way to help ease the worries for these children is to give them the tools they need to manage their expectations.
1. Maintain a schedule
Post a daily schedule at home. Refer to the schedule regularly and try to follow it as much as possible. This will make the school schedule feel comforting instead of strange.
2. Keep regular meals
Stick to three meals a day, plus a couple of snacks. Kids who eat all day long may have a tougher time at school.
3. Practice getting dressed
Have your child practice putting clothes on independently. Bonus: Your child’s teacher will appreciate this: With one adult in the classroom, it’s hard for the teacher to button 20 kids’ rain coats.
4. Write a letter to the teacher
Together with your child, write a letter to the new teacher and send it to school. Initiating this conversation breaks the ice when they do meet.
5. Read together
Children going into pre-K and kindergarten spend a lot of time reading. Reading to your child and asking questions them about the book can give them a head start for what they’ll be learning in the classroom.
1st through 3rd grade
Children who’ve been to school before tend to be more concerned about who they’ll know in their class. They might also be worried about the actual schoolwork for that grade.
1. Find a friend
Try to find out who has the same teacher as your child. Consider scheduling a playdate with that child so they both have a friendly face on the first day. You might even want to meet on the school playground!
2. Help them practice using their voice
When kids are at home, parents often give them what they need without being asked. This is the lovely part about knowing each other so well. But, at school, kids need to make their needs heard during the day. Help your child greet someone without being greeted first or ask for what they need during dinner. You might even have them ask for the check in a restaurant as practice.
3. Play the “what might happen” game
Here, you’ll come up with a scenario and ask your child what might happen. For example, “If you can’t find the bathroom at school, what might you do?” Help your child think of lots of ideas that will prepare them for independent thinking and decision-making in a variety of situations.
4. Keep your own anxiety in check
Children have a way of sensing a parent’s emotions. If you think things might go wrong, so will they. Consider practicing controlled breathing before you help your child prepare for going back to school or talk to other parents who’ve been through it.
5. Stay Connected to Nature
One of the toughest things about going back to school is being indoors so much more. Make a list of fun outdoors things you can do after school each day.
4th through 6th grade
By this age, kids are pretty used to the school routine. The toughest part will be helping them adjust to more homework and new social situations.
1. Regulate sleep schedules
Summer with older kids means late nights with fireworks, BBQs or just playing. Kids this age are pretty independent, so strict bedtime rituals often disappear. In the lead-up to back to school, tighten up on bedtimes and wake times so kids don’t start the year exhausted. Ten to 12 hours of sleep are critical for all school-aged kids.
2. Create a safe, study-friendly spot
One fun back to school tip is to spend some time creating a cozy, quiet space that your child will rely on for getting homework done or reading in after school.
3. Set school and personal goals
You can help your child learn the skill of goal-setting, which is necessary for developing grit and just simply getting what you want out of life. Help your child come up with 2-3 goals and smaller steps for achieving those goals.
4. Help your child get organized
Make sure your child has a planner this year. Help your child take advantage of this organizational tool by checking the planner each evening and asking questions that keep the focus on time management.
5. Foster dinner table talk
Use family dinner time as a way to communicate more. Model for your child: “Someone I work with is always negative; it makes the day seem longer. Does that ever happen to you?” Learning that dinner is a safe space to share can help improve communication.
Back to school fears and worries can be managed with a little structure and conversation. The earlier you plan and execute strategies, the easier the summer-to-school transition will be.
Kimberley Moran is the mom of two children and stepmom to two young adults. She is a senior digital editor at WeAreTeachers.com, where she helps teachers improve the lives of kids everywhere. She was a teacher for 15 years, working to make sure children were both seen and heard. She wrote the book, Hacking Parenthood: Ten Mantras You Can Use Daily to Reduce the Stress of Parenting, to help all parents simplify their lives and love raising children. She lives in Maine with her family.