It’s that time of year again—the time welcomed by parents and cringed at by kids: back to school. To help make this transition a bit easier, here are few ways to ease out of the lazy summer routine and ease your family toward a more structured and enjoyable first day of school.
Back to school week means it’s time for bedtime routines again
During summer most parents let the bedtime routine shift with that day’s activities. Now that back to school week is just days away; it’s time to shift out of that type of flexibility and establish some tried and true habits: a predictable bedtime routine.
Shift bedtime 10-15 minutes each night
If you enforce an early bedtime routine on the Sunday before school starts, don’t be surprised by the morning mayhem that follows. If children are used to sleeping in or have the “school starts tomorrow” jitters, shifting bedtime 10-15 minutes each night can help.
Step one: Before you even shift bedtime, have kids read in bed for half an hour or more before lights out. If your children are younger, read with or to them. If your kiddo has difficulty falling asleep, make sure the daily activities wear them out and drain their batteries. In other words, let them chase seagulls at the beach all day.
Step two: Start waking up your late sleepers a bit earlier each day.
Check out the school before the first day of school
Step one: Go on google maps with your children and take a virtual tour of the school. If they walk to school, show them the route on the map. Doing so gives children a mental image of their surroundings. If they ride the bus, click this handy link to help both of you deal with the first-time bus ride jitters.
Step two: If your child walks to school alone, practice the walk several times. If he or she walks in a group, make it fun and invite those kids to walk with you.
Step three: Walk up to the classroom door with your child. Walk the playground and consider playing a game of handball as well. If you can, let your kiddo use the school bathroom.
Greet the teacher
One of the best ways to lower any back to school anxiety is to meet with the teacher. If at all possible, take a picture of your child with the teacher. Next, place it in your fridge where your child can see it. Preferably at your child’s eye level. Then, talk to that teacher as if they were a family member. “Mr. Smith, you are in for a real treat since my Jason in your class.”
Play with classmates prior to the first day of school
Setting up a couple of playdates before back to school week will help ease any stress that goes with the first week of school. Even more, doing so will help your kiddo feel more connected when he enters class on that first day. If at all possible, consider walking to and from school—parents and children—for the first few days of back to school week.
Get emotionally ready
Back to school week can generate excessive stress in children. To help ease that tension, try reading books together about the grade he’ll be entering. Talk about what that first day will be like, how the drop-off will go, who will pick him up, etc.
Take note of his worries. Address each worry directly. Reassure him that you are “on his team.” Next, brainstorm with him about how best to handle each issue. If feeling disconnected is the big upset, try giving him a laminate family photo for his pocket or backpack. If saying goodbye troubles him, make up a funny “goodbye” rhyme or ritual and practice it for several days.
Firm up the family routines
Summer items like extracurriculars, chores, and screen time need to be readdressed. Take time to sit down as a family and talk about your expectations around things like play time and screen time on weekdays. Take the time you both need to work through the new routine.
Help your child get organized
Yes, it’s tempting to buy all your kiddos school supplies and then use your adult skills to organize his class folders. Don’t do that. Instead, make back to school organization a significant learning opportunity. Use it to mentor and disciple your child.
Start by making a school supplies list together. Next, let your child choose his back to school supplies, whether from around your house or from the store. Work together on how to arrange it all in the backpack. For a quick and super handy 2-minute video on color-coding school supplies, click this link.
Designate a “home plate” area for each child
In baseball, home plate is where the batter stands when batting and where baserunners must touch in order to score. If you want your kiddo to score well in school, you want to keep school books, supplies, backpacks, and lunchboxes in a designated area. In my home, we call it “home plate.”
The same is true with homework. Talk with your kiddo and then set up a designated work area. Make sure that you both feel comfortable with it. Pick a place that gives him independence, but allows you to supervise easily.
Let your kiddo pick his back to school clothes
One of the benchmarks of effective parenting is prizing a child’s growing independence. Letting kids decide which outfit to wear during back to school week is a great opportunity for both of you. If you have a type “A” personality like me, then here’s a little trick I learned. Pick out two complete outfits. Make sure they can be mixed and still match. Then, place them on the bed and let your child decide. If he wants to mix and match, no problem. Your child doesn’t show up to school looking homeless, neglected, or crazy.
Prepare lunches in advance
Wise parents sit down with the kiddos and talk about what they want for lunch during each day of back to school week. Next, hop in the car with your crew and go shopping for lunch supplies. Next, stick to the lunch menu plan. Whatever you do, don’t wait until bedtime to make lunches. For starters, your kids are tired and need your attention to soothe their last-minute jitters. Or, you are wiped out and don’t have the energy. Start early.
Celebrate the end of summer with a party
On the day before the first day of school, prepare everyone’s favorite meal. Make it an early dinner, so you are guaranteed an early bedtime. Next, talk about the highlights of the summer. Laugh and celebrate those family vacation memories. Then, go around the table and affirm each child. “David, I so appreciate how you helped with the chores this summer.” … “Megan, I appreciate how hard you worked at riding your bike.”
Don’t forget to share your passion about school. You can end the table talk with something like, “Sweetie, I’m excited to hear all about your first day of school when you get home tomorrow!”
Don’t forget that back to school first-day photo
Children are only young once, so make sure you get a cut and creative photo that lasts a lifetime.
Get to bed early
Wise parents are rested, parents. Rested parents have full access to their brain, so they can help children navigate that first day of school jitters.
Leave the house early
Which parent do you want to be? The parent who shows up at school, just in the nick of time. Or, the parent who shows up cool, calm, and collected with plenty of time to spare?
|Author: Steve Cuffari For many, Steve Cuffari is the mentor that parents call on to make their parenting style warmer, easier and more effective. He is the founder of InTouch Parenting, a company devoted to helping today’s parents calm the chaos, raise emotionally intelligent kids, and nurture families that thrive. read more about Steve Cuffari here…|