Back to school is always a big transition. This countdown will gently ease you and your family toward a happy first day of school.
If your children are headed back to school soon, I hope you’re savoring every last drop of summer before the excitement and big adjustments of the new school year. But back to school is always a big transition, and a little prep goes a long way. To help you with the transition, here’s a countdown to gently ease you and your family toward a happy first day of school.
12. Start moving bedtime a tiny bit earlier every night. It’s impossible to impose an early bedtime cold turkey on a child who slept in that morning and has the “school starts tomorrow” jitters. One way to shift the schedule is to start having kids read in bed for half an hour or more before lights out, which is also good for their reading skills. (For younger kids, read with or to them.) Wake late sleepers a bit earlier each day. If your child is having a hard time falling asleep, be sure they’re getting plenty of daily roughhousing accompanied by laughter, as well as physical activity outside in nature.
11. Tour the school, or at least the playground, with your child. If allowed, let your little one use the school bathroom. If your child will be walking alone, practice the walk several times.
10. Introduce your child to the teacher if at all possible. If you can, take a picture of your child with the teacher, put it on your fridge at your child’s eye level, and talk to her like she’s part of the family. “I know you’ll love having Joseph in your class, Ms. Brown.”
9. Set up playdates with a couple of other kids in the class so she feels more connected when she walks in that first day. If possible, arrange to walk with one of them (and their parent) the first morning.
8. Prepare your child emotionally. Read books about the grade he’ll be entering. Describe to him what that first day will be like, how the drop-off will go, who will pick him up, etc. Listen to his worries. Reassure and brainstorm with him how he could handle those issues. Make up a “goodbye” rhyme or ritual and practice it. Give him a laminated family photo for his backpack. (Here’s more on Preparing Your Child for the New School Year)
7. Decide any changes in family routines such as extracurriculars, chores or no screen time on weekdays, and talk with your child about the new routine.
6. Let your child choose her own school supplies, whether from around your house or from the store, and ready them in her backpack or bag.
5. Organize a place for each child to keep school books, supplies, backpacks, lunchbox etc. Set up a homework spot for your child to work (always in close proximity to the rest of the family rather than off in her own room.)
4. Organize paperwork with a different colored folder for each child to hold school forms and papers to be signed. Be sure immunizations and medical checkups are up to date. If you don’t have a family calendar that kids can read, set one up on a whiteboard.
3. Have kids pick out their outfits and backpacks the day before school starts, and make lunches for the next day. Don’t wait until evening when kids are tired and need your attention to soothe their last-minute jitters.
2. Have an end of summer family celebration the evening before school starts with an early dinner, and toast the highlights of the summer. Then go around the table and share appreciations: “I appreciate that Michael helped in the garden this summer” … “I appreciate that Sara worked so hard to learn to ride a bike.” Finish with “Looking Forwards,” such as “I’m looking forward to when you come home from your first day of first grade and I get to hear all about it!”
1. Go to bed early yourself the night before school starts so you’ll be up early, rested and ready in the morning to deal patiently with any last-minute jitters or minor crises. Plan to leave the house 15 minutes before you need to — at the worst, they’ll have time to play at the school playground. And don’t forget that “first day of school” photo!
Dr. Laura Markham is the author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life and Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and more, – you can visit her at ahaparenting.com.
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