Getting ready to go back to school? Read these 6 useful back to school tips for parents for a smooth transition this new school year.
However long the summers might seem, back to school can still come as a surprise. With many schools starting in early to mid-August, thinking about the rush of morning routines, school supplies, and backpacks isn’t exactly on your mind.
Or perhaps your summers aren’t too different from the regular school year. Your child might have been in year-round preschool, or he attended summer camp while you worked. Your routine had been pretty consistent, whether it was April or July on your calendar.
The return to school has its own pros and cons, from rushed mornings to finally having the kids out of your hair. No wonder you feel uncertain about what to expect.
Back to school tips for parents
That’s why preparing for this change starts long before that first day of school. After months of not having been in school, you and your child need to adjust to a new norm.
What are the essentials to keep in mind as you prepare him for the upcoming new year? Take a look at these back to school tips for parents (and kids!):
1. Read and do “homework”
One simple way to ease your child back to school is to start doing worksheets. We’re not talking about hours-long assignments—one age-appropriate worksheet a day is perfect. Incorporate it into your routine, whether it’s after bath time or during snack.
This can help her refresh what she has learned and get her used to writing and answering questions. She can also get used to a schoolwork routine, especially if you do them at the same time and place every day.
And the way you phrase homework time and school makes a huge difference. Don’t talk about it like it’s a drag (“You have to do homework,” or “Let’s just get this over with”). If you phrase it as a fun activity, she can see school in a positive way.
Similarly, read books (another habit that’s good to do every day!). Find age-appropriate books and read them together. Have a bedtime routine that includes reading books and scatter books throughout the house for impromptu reading sessions.
She’ll read often in school—the more comfortable and confident she feels, the better she can perform.
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2. Practice self-sufficiency
Worried that your child won’t be able to zip his pants or open a snack bag by himself at school? Without you to guide or help, he might need to figure out how to do things for himself.
If you’ve gotten used to helping him over the summer, begin taking a step back. Ask yourself how he would cope at school with you not there. And if it feels like something he might struggle with, work on teaching him ways to do it himself.
Mornings can also be hectic, and the more independent your child can be, the smoother they can run. Some examples include:
- Using the restroom
- Figuring out how to open his lunch bag and compartments
- Putting on his shoes
- Getting dressed in the mornings
- Brushing his teeth
- Doing chores like putting dishes away and clothes in the hamper
The biggest upside to doing things himself? The more self-sufficient he is, the more confident he can feel those first days at school. He won’t feel anxious or overwhelmed when he can’t figure out how to tie his shoes. To make these tasks easier to understand, hang printable checklists he can cross off.
3. Implement a school routine before school starts
You may have had a different routine all summer long—one that didn’t need set bedtimes or getting dressed first thing in the morning. Ease your child into school mode by doing a run through of your typical days a few weeks before school starts.
- Set your alarm clock at the same time you would during school days.
- Start an early bedtime to account for a potentially earlier wake up time the next day.
- Have him get himself dressed each morning.
- Eat a hearty breakfast (a good goal to have every day!).
- Have him brush his teeth before leaving the house.
- Find a reason to leave the house the same time you would for school, such as a trip to the park or library, or to run errands. (You can even have him bring his school bag to get into the habit!)
- If you plan to ride a bike or walk to school, do a few test runs before school starts.
- See if you can take a tour of the school, like during an open house or back to school night.
4. Don’t use school as a reason to meet milestones
School should be an exciting time for your child, not one mired with anxiety and pressure because of deadlines.
Transitioning out of summer is hard enough as it is. This might even be the first time she’s going to school, or it’s a new environment she’ll be entering. Focus on the positives of school rather than using it as a goal to meet milestones or change behaviors.
For instance, has your preschooler been regressing with potty training? Don’t put pressure on her to be potty trained by saying, “Preschool starts in August! You need to be able to use the potty by then.”
This strategy hardly works, as it creates anxiety and pressure, painting a terrifying picture of what should be positive. Instead, focus on adjusting to school and deal with potty training later once she has developed a new norm.
Whether it’s to stop sucking her thumb or learn how to read, avoid using school as a deadline for milestones. The pressure can even make her regress further. She’ll reach them when she’s ready, not because school starts in August.
5. Validate your child’s feelings about going back to school
A big change like going to school includes plenty of emotions. Your child may have made friends during summer whom she won’t see until next year. However exciting school can be for her, she might still need to say goodbye to a fun summer camp experience.
Perhaps she feels anxious about her new classmates or teacher or dreads the busy schedule that comes with the school year. She might not know where to eat in the cafeteria or worries that she might get lost in the school building.
Avoid brushing aside her emotions or trying to make her feel better by saying she’ll get over it soon. Just let her feel her emotions, and validate them as real. How?
Talk about how you’ve gone through similar situations either in your childhood or now as an adult. Discuss how everyone goes through the same feelings, and that you too would feel sad or scared about going to school. These are real emotions and something she shouldn’t feel embarrassed to admit.
Have a healthy discussion about school. Promote the positives without dismissing her heavier emotions.
6. Give school gear a test run
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Getting the right gear is one thing—putting them through a test run is another. Below are a few things to buy for back to school, as well as what to look out for to prepare your child before the first day:
- Clothes: Once you’ve bought her school clothes, have her try them on and wear them at home. Make sure she can unzip, button, and feel comfortable in them.
- Shoes: Have her wear new shoes a few days before school starts. Make sure they’re comfortable and that she can figure out any Velcro or shoelaces.
- School bag: Help her get familiar with how to work all its compartments.
- Lunch bags: Same thing with lunch bags (this is the lunch bag I got my kids)—make sure she knows what goes where. Some bags have room for ice packs, while others have different compartments for snacks and lunch.
- Insulated food containers: This is a great way to pack her a warm lunch instead of cold sandwiches every day (this is the one I bought). Make sure she knows how to open and close the container.
- Snack bags: Pack her snacks in reusable bags that are easy to open and close. These snack bags have been perfect for school lunches.
- Water bottle: If she’s transitioning from a sippy cup to a sports bottle, have her try it out. Remind her to close the spout or else the water might leak.
Being in school—from a new classroom setting to the playground—can be a huge transition for your child. Use these back to school tips for parents to make it easier.
Test drive your gear and adjust your schedule a few weeks before. Encourage her to be self-sufficient so she can manage on her own. Discuss the school transition by validating her emotions. Do “homework” to get her familiar with school work, and don’t use school as a reason to meet a milestone.
Summer may be over, but with preparation, you can have a smooth transition back to school.
Get more tips and tricks:
- What to Do When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Go to School
- How to Keep Kids from Getting Sick at School
- How to Teach a Child to Dress Themselves
- 5 Homework Mistakes You Should Definitely Avoid
- What to Do When Your Child Cries at Drop Off
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