With back-to-school time just around the corner, kids and parents alike are looking forward to the next month with a healthy mix of excitement – and apprehension. After all, whether your child is going to kindergarten for the first time or they’re heading off to high school, going back to school is a big transition for all of us. After nearly two months of summer vacation, a (usually) more lax schedule, no homework or after-school activities, and an array of summer vacations and events, it’s hard to get back into a routine. And truthfully, no matter how much you prepare, the first few weeks are an adjustment for most families.
However, there are a number of things you can start doing now to help ease the transition for you and your kids. From simple things like communicating expectations for the coming year, to more tangible activities like back to school shopping, there are countless ways that you can ensure a great start to the school year and set the stage for positive habits throughout the remainder of the school term.
To get you started, we’ve put together a few basic ideas that you can start today to get you and your kids in a back-to-school frame of mind.
1. Talk about the coming year.
Many kids are anxious about returning to school. For younger kids, the thought of new friends, new classrooms, and new routines can be daunting. Even kids who are seasoned students may have anxiety based on previous experiences, whether social or academic. Find out how your kids are feeling about the coming year and talk to them now about ways you can work together to make the year a success. Make sure they know that you are there to help them every step of the way and be prepared to talk to teachers or school counselors about any special concerns or needs your child might have. Start framing positive expectations for the year and allow that to be the outlook and energy that guides you and your children toward the first day…and every day after.
2. Shop for supplies early.
Not only will it be a relief to have back-to-school shopping done, getting supplies can be a fun and engaging activity for your whole family. After all, it’s hard not to love a fresh stack of new notebooks! For younger kids, gathering and sorting supplies is a great way to engage them in the process and continue conversations about subjects they may be studying in the coming year, as well as activities they can look forward to. For older kids, even those without the expansive supply lists that come with elementary school, getting new supplies can be equally exciting. If you have teenagers, or otherwise computer savvy kids, set them to the task of searching out the best deals online. Allow them to be part of the budgeting and shopping process and you can easily turn back-to-school shopping from a necessary evil to a life-lesson experience for them.
3. Get into a routine sooner rather than later.
Summer typically comes with later bedtimes and an absence of alarm clocks, making the school schedule a big transition for everyone. It’s never too early to start getting everyone (parents and kids alike) back into a regular schedule. Start with setting a regular bedtime for younger kids and, at the very least, an earlier curfew or “lights out time” for older kids at least two to three weeks before the start of school. But be sure to include yourself in these changes, as well. After all, parents need their rest, too. Chances are, after a busy summer, you’ll all be glad for a little extra sleep and a more structured routine.
4. Limit screen time.
No matter how much your kids protest, now is a good time to start easing up on TV and tablets. Think about the coming year and what your kids’ schedules will look like, including what time their schools get out, what their established bedtimes will be, and how much homework they might have. Decide now what the appropriate amount of screen time will be for the school year and begin enforcing those time limits. If kids complain about boredom…well, the next few tips should help with that!
5. Add in educational activities before the first day.
We all know that the “summer slide,” (i.e., the tendency to fall back in terms of learning over the summer) is a real thing. An overnight transition at the start of the school year from no established “learning time” to a full day in the classroom can be overwhelming for kids of all ages. To help get your kids back into a classroom mindset, start adding in some work now. For younger kids, as you’re picking up school supplies, look for some simple workbooks in a variety of subjects that they can complete in the coming weeks. For older kids, make sure those summer reading lists are checked off. This is also a good chance to create time in your daily schedule that can be replaced with homework time in the coming year. Likewise, you’ll have a chance to gauge where your kids are academically and be prepared to provide extra support if there are subjects that are more challenging for them.
6. Create a “learning space.”
Giving your kids a set time to focus on academics is important, but having a space in which to do it is important, too. Decide now where homework will be done in the coming year and start getting that space ready. Whether it decluttering a desk in a teen’s bedroom or setting up a dedicated space in a common room, having somewhere for kids to go that is solely for their academics can greatly improve their focus. Plus, creating that space can be a fun activity. Give kids a chance to talk about what they need from their environment and work together to organize and decorate the space to their needs.
7. Clean and declutter.
In addition to creating organized spaces for homework, it’s important for kids (and parents, too) to start the year off with clean slate – in other words, an organized house. For kids, this means getting their rooms in order and having set places for their supplies, backpacks, sports equipment, etc. For you, it’s making sure you’re ready for the influx of forms, notices, and art projects that are about to start flooding in daily – not to mention the chaos of school mornings. Whether you need to purchase organizing bins or label containers for easy school lunches and snacks, the more you do now the better, because as much as you might dread it, when the school year starts, you’ll all be grateful for it.
8. Be ready for an amazing year!
As with most things in life, when it comes to school, attitude is everything. So last but not least, start building up excitement for the coming year with positive thinking, conversation, and expectations. As a parent, you get to be your kids’ biggest cheerleader, and now is a good time to remind them how much you believe in them. Whether they ace every test or struggle academically, make sure they know that you are proud of them and are there to see their efforts pay off.
We hope these tips will help you and your kids as you prepare for the coming school year. In the meantime, for more tips on local schools, including calendars and supply lists, deals on back-to-school shopping, and more, be sure to check out our 2019 Greater Richmond Back-To-School Guide!