Back to School: Getting off to a Good Start

Going back to school can be exciting and fun, or it can be stressful and chaotic.  There are things you can do to ease the transition and help your child get off to a good start. 

1.     Re-establish school year bedtimes – children’s brains are still developing, and there have been numerous studies indicating that many children are not getting enough sleep.  Some school districts across the nation have even shifted to a later start time for high schools.  Observe your child, including mood, behavior, irritability, frustration etc. to see if your child might benefit by getting more sleep.  Additionally, set the alarm early enough to avoid chaos, meltdowns and tantrums in the morning.

2.    Re-establish school year mealtimes- prepare a list of healthy and simple options for breakfast and lunch to avoid chaos on school mornings.  I recommend packing lunches the night before, and letting older children be responsible for packing their own lunch (the night before).  Research also supports eating dinner together as a family.

3.    School Supplies- Buy age appropriate and necessary school supplies and help children organize their supplies.  Decide together where the child will study, do homework, and keep supplies.  Even young children can participate and understand the concept of “where will this live?”  For example, ask them where they keep their toothbrush and toothpaste.  Hardly anyone misplaces these items, because they have a distinct place to live.  Help your child organize school supplies in a place designated for school related activities.

4.    Organize, organize, organize- we waste so much time looking for misplaced things, replacing things we already have, wading through too much stuff, etc.  There are countless organizing tools, containers, baskets, totes, gadgets and supplies available for every room in your home or workplace. 

Work with your child to organize his room and workspace to increase efficiency and decrease stress and anxiety.

5.    Schedules, calendars, and checklists- a family calendar is a good place to start, especially if you have more than one child and there are sports and extracurricular activities.  Each child can also have a checklist, calendar and emergency numbers in their binders to help stay organized.  Younger children respond well to charts with stickers and pictures, while older children can use alerts, to -do lists, etc to stay organized and focused.

6.    Have a basic routine and structure- most children do better when they stick to a regular routine for bedtime, mealtime and homework.  These routines promote a feeling of comfort and stability for the child and the family.  Once a plan is in place, you can always rework or tweak the plan if necessary. 

7.    Stay calm and positive- it is normal for some children to feel anxious and stressed about going to school.  Provide support and encouragement, and be careful not to overreact, especially in front of your child.  In some cases, separation anxiety is the parent’s problem more than it is the child’s problem.  Managing your own stress and providing an environment that is loving, calm, harmonious and organized is the best thing you can do to get your child off to a great start for the school year.

8.    Have fun- don’t forget to relax and have fun together.  Be creative and allow everyone to participate in the planning of family activities.