School is here! Can you believe it? Some parents are breathing a huge sigh of relief (because Mom and Dad are maxed out on summer adventures) while others are sad to see it all end. Regardless of where you stand, preparing for school goes beyond buying or DIY’ing a first-day-of-school sign for the photo op. (Although I’m all for that, too!)
Here are some tips for a successful start of the school year for your young children:
Get back into your routine
If your family is like mine, your schedule and routines may have taken a detour during the summer. Gradually start getting back on track so that your child is well rested for school. You can expect a good amount of exhaustion as they start having earlier mornings and full days so bump up bedtime and utilize the downtime on the weekends. Also, make being on time for school a priority in your daily schedule. It is so important for your child emotionally, socially, and academically to be there when school begins each day.
Try on their uniforms
If your child is new to wearing uniforms, having he or she try them out during these last summer days is a helpful way to ease them into the habit. Their uniform may need adjustments and shoes may need to be broken in, but most importantly, they’ll get a feel for what they’ll have to wear every day. You don’t need any reason for school mornings to be harder so you’ll thank yourself later.
Do some reading
Books are my favorite way to get conversations going with children. Bookstores and libraries usually have displays with books that discuss going back to school. After reading, spend time talking about what you read and how things will be similar and/or different at their school. Hopefully your child has the chance to meet his or her teacher before school starts so you can also talk about how their teacher’s role in the classroom is similar to the teacher in the book. For example, if the teacher in the book helped the students, you can talk about how their teacher will also be there to help them with various things while they’re at school. Discussing coping mechanisms for emotions such as dealing with separation, feeling shy, or uncertainty about making friends is especially important for young children. Figure out what emotions they are tackling and address them. Some of my favorite back to school books are:
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
- How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath
- There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books! By Lucille Colandro
- Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes by James Dean
- The Night Before series by Natasha Wing
Create a visual countdown
Children like to know what’s coming up. Just like we give our children minute by minute countdowns when we’re nearing the end of a fun activity, countdowns to upcoming events are helpful. Visual aids like calendars or number countdowns that are a part of your daily routine will help your child work up to school starting. An easy visual countdown is a paper chain with numbers written on each link. Each morning, your child can cut off the number of days until school starts until cutting number one of the first day of school.
Preparing breakfast, packing lunches, and cooking dinner can be difficult at the start of the school year. Drive thrus are especially tempting during this time. Meal planning will make your life easier and keep your family well fed. Fast, nutritional breakfasts make mornings smoother. Try preparing a week’s worth of lunches on Sunday so that the lunch box can be quickly packed each morning. Consider crockpot or 30-minute meals that make eating around the dinner table easier even amongst busy schedules. The added bonus is that while you’re sitting around the table, you’ll have a chance to hear about their day. Don’t be alarmed if your child isn’t keeping the conversation going too long. Starting school is tiring and they’ve spent all day working and playing hard. If they’re in the mood to talk, try asking open-ended questions such as, “What was your favorite part of the day?”, “What did you like to play during center time?”, or “Tell me about your playground.” Avoid yes or no questions and questions that “interview for pain.” (i.e. “You seem quiet today. Were your classmates mean to you?”)
Along the same lines, even if you’re dreading the start of school, speak positively about the upcoming school year. Instead of “I don’t want the summer to end either, but you have to go back to school” say “I agree that we had a great summer! It’s awesome that you GET to go back to school. I hope you learn so much cool stuff this year. I bet your teacher is excited to have you!” You get me? Even with the stress of getting all the things done before school starts, be mindful about how you talk about school. Our children feed off of our energy so do your best to take the half-full approach.
Lastly, soak up your time with your littles.
You don’t need me to remind you that they’ll be busy this school year and will grow more than you realize. Enjoy family time when you have it.