Getting ready to go back to school? Read these 6 useful back to school ideas for parents for a smooth transition this school year.
If you’re like me, you’re in denial it’s nearly time for school. “I thought it was still mid-July!” I told my husband as we neared the beginning of August.
If you’re even more like me, summers weren’t too different from the regular school year. Both my husband and I work, so my eldest attended summer camp while the twins stayed with the nanny. We’ve kept the routine pretty consistent, whether it was April or July.
Back to school ideas for parents
Still, going back to school includes adjusting, even for kids who spend summers in child care or camp. From schedules to self-sufficiency, families should begin adjusting to school in a few weeks.
Below are 6 back to school tips for parents and kids.
1. Practice self-sufficiency
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Worried whether your child can unbutton his pants by himself at school? Without parents to guide or help, kids need to figure out how to do things for themselves.
If you’ve gotten used to helping your child 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’ll 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 will run. Some examples include:
- Using the restroom (complete with the complicated button)
- Figuring out how to open his lunch bag and compartments
- Putting on her shoes
- Getting dressed in the mornings
- Brushing her teeth
- Doing chores like putting dishes away and clothes in the hamper
The more self-sufficient your child is, the more confident he’ll feel those first days.
2. Implement your school routine two weeks 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 two weeks before school starts.
- Wake your child up 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 your child 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, the library or to run errands.
- When you leave, have him bring his school bag to get into the habit.
3. Do “homework” and read with your child
I am that parent who does daily worksheets with my five-year-old. Weekends, summers, you name it. After his bath and before we read our bedtime books, he does 10 minutes of ‘homework’ every night. (Don’t worry: he likes it!)
If you haven’t been doing school work, I encourage you to start a few weeks before school. Keep it simple.
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Get your child used to a homework routine. This includes doing homework the same time and at the same place every day.
And remember, the way you phrase homework and academics 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”).
Similarly, read books (another habit that’s good to do every day!). Find age-appropriate books for your child and read them together. Implement a routine, such as four books before bedtime. Scatter books throughout the house for impromptu reading sessions.
Your child will read often in school. The more comfortable and confident he feels, the better he’ll likely perform.
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. It’s already hard enough transitioning from summer to school. Maybe this is even the first time your child is going to school, or maybe it’s a new school she’ll be entering. Focus on the positives of school rather than using it as a goal to meet milestones.
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 September! You need to be able to use the potty by then.” This creates anxiety and puts unneeded pressure on your child. That strategy hardly works. Instead, it paints a terrifying picture of an experience that should be positive.
My toddler twins aren’t potty trained yet, but I don’t plan to use preschool as the deadline for them to master it. I’d rather they focus on adjusting to school and deal with potty training later once they’ve developed a new norm.
Whether it’s to stop sucking his thumb or to learn how to read, avoid using school as a deadline for a milestones. Your child will reach them when she is ready, not because school starts in September. The pressure may even cause her to regress even more.
5. Validate your child’s feelings about going back to school
A big change like going to school includes plenty of emotions. My five-year-old has made friends during summer camp he won’t see until next year. However exciting school will be for him, he’ll still need to say goodbye to a fun summer camp experience.
Similarly, your child may feel anxious about his new classmates or teacher. Remember not to brush aside his emotions. Or try to make him feel better by saying he’ll get over it soon. Just let him feel his emotions, and validate them as real. How?
Talk about how you have 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 he shouldn’t feel embarrassed to admit.
Have a healthy discussion about school. Promote the positives of school without dismissing heavier emotions under the rug. Highlight the positives of school while validating fear he may have about it as well.
6. Give school gear a test run
Getting the right gear is the first part of back to school tips for parents — 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 your child’s 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 your child wear her school shoes a few days before school starts. You want to make sure they’re comfortable and that she can figure out any velcros or shoelaces.
School bag: All three of my kids need their own backpacks, and I make sure they know how to work all its compartments.
Lunch bags: Same thing with lunch bags—make sure your child knows what goes where. Some bags have room for ice packs. Others have different compartments for snacks versus lunch. Make sure your child knows which is which.
Thermos: One of the best decisions I made is to buy thermoses for my kids (this is the thermos I bought). My eldest in particular goes to school that, like most, don’t heat up lunches. Rather than pack him the same sandwich every day, I purchased a thermos so he can have warm lunches as well. Make sure your child knows how to open and close the thermos.
Water bottle or sippy cups: If your child is transitioning from sippy cup to a sports bottle, have her try it out. Remind her to close the spout or else the water will leak. And if your preschooler will be using a new sippy cup, make sure she knows how to drink from that as well.
Going back to school is a huge transition for both you and your kids. Use these back to school tips for parents to make it easier.
Test drive your gear and adjust your schedule two weeks before. Encourage your child to be self-sufficient. And discuss the school transition by validating his emotions. Summer time may be over, but with preparation, you can have a smooth transition back to school.
Get more tips:
- 9 Simple Tips to Teach Your Child to Get Dressed
- Homework Mistakes You Should Definitely Avoid
- 6 Tips to Make Your Morning Routine for School Run Smoothly
- What to Do when Your Child Cries at Drop Off
Help your child trace and recognize the letters and numbers with sample worksheets from my digital workbook, Letters and Numbers! Join my newsletter and download them below—at no extra cost to you:
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