8 Ways To Prepare Your Child to Go Back to School
Back in June, summer stretched before us. We wondered how we’d fill the days and keep our kids occupied and engaged. Yet, we’re now rapidly approaching back-to-school time. So, how do we best help our kids get ready for the new school year?
Here are eight ways to prepare your child for going back to school:
- Talk about it. Don’t deny the fact that summer is ending. Have the date marked on the family calendar. Begin a countdown, and make it fun. Try, a family dance party each night for the last 7 days before school starts, for example.
- Earlier bedtimes and earlier wake-ups. For at least the week before school starts, begin transitioning to these earlier times. During summer, many families get a bit lax about bedtime and morning routines. “Lax” doesn’t work on school mornings though. Depending on your summer routine, you may need to start with “gentle” transitions — fifteen minutes earlier each night until you’re at your desired bedtime. Likewise, start setting the alarm in the morning until you reach your desired wake-up time. The Monday before school starts, go through a “dry-run.” Have your child wake-up and prepare as if it was a school day, then go out and celebrate the year ahead!
- Be positive and encouraging. Our children take their cues from us, so make sure you’re discussing school in positive terms. Don’t bad-mouth teachers or homework. And, do take your child’s worries seriously. Transitioning to middle school and worrying about changing clothes for p.e. or finding your classes during the five-minute passing periods are legitimate worries. Let your child practice. How fast can you walk in your neighborhood in 5 minutes? What is the best way to change clothes so your child feels most comfortable?
- Set up homework expectations. Talk about it now before school starts and the homework begins. Where and when will homework take place? How will after-school activities factor into homework time? When will play-dates be scheduled? Do you have all the necessary supplies? (Again, depending on your child’s age these supplies will vary but may include: scissors, glue, crayons, ruler, pencils, paper, dictionary, and internet access).
- Purchase supplies. Your child’s grade, school, and teacher(s) will all dictate what types of supplies your child needs. Meanwhile, cover the basics. Children should have a backpack large enough for a homework folder (approximately 9×12) to fit into. Young ones should also have an extra change of clothes in their backpacks (whether for bathroom accidents or spilled milk.) Other backpack essentials include tissues, hand sanitizer, and extra pencils. Older children need a way of keeping all their coursework organized. Different children (and their teachers) will have different systems. If your child is left to his own devices, try to color-code classes. Math class will use a purple binder, purple spiral notebook, and purple folder for loose papers. Science class will have the same supplies but all in green, for example. Create a way for you to organize the papers that will be traveling back and forth to school.*
- Shopping. Shopping for clothes and food can be stressful enough, so don’t leave it until the weekend before school resumes. Start early, and let your child be an active participant in the shopping experience. Less arguments are likely to ensue if your child has helped select his new pair of tennis shoes, for instance. When shopping, though, keep in mind any school guidelines. School dress codes vary — some schools require uniforms, some schools merely prohibit certain items (including sandals, Crocs, and Heelys). In terms of food, some schools are “peanut-free,” while others prohibit candy, gum, sports drinks, and Hot Cheetos.
- Set up expectations and consequences. Teachers begin a new school year establishing behavioral expectations and the consequences that will follow if those expectations aren’t met. You know your child and his challenges (whether it be getting out of the house on time, staying on task in class, remembering to write his name on classwork, or completing homework without a fuss). Have a discussion now before school starts. Be specific with the behaviors you expect and just as specific with the resulting consequences. And remember, consequences aren’t all bad. Acknowledge your child’s efforts and have a plan in place to recognize his hard work with good consequences (an extra 15 minutes of computer time, a later bedtime on Saturday nights, a book from the local book store).
- Make the first day something to look forward to. Different families host their own special “back to school celebrations.” Try a candle in your child’s breakfast toast. Send your child to school with an extra-special lunch or snack. Take your child for a special treat after-school, such as the yearly “first-day-of-school hot fudge sundae.” Plan a special family dinner and/or dessert to celebrate.