How to Prepare Your Child for Going Back to School

As the never-ending barrage of back-to-school commercials keeps reminding us, the new school year is right around the corner!  Whether your child is going to school for the first time or returning after enjoying the carefree days of summer, the start of the school year can be a challenge.  A little preparation can help make those first few weeks easier for everyone.

Here are some tips to make the back-to-school transition go more smoothly:

Adjust Your Child’s Bedtime Before School Starts

While your child may be used to going to bed early during the school year, all bets are off once summer activities begin (after all, movies in the park don’t even start until 8:00!).  Barbecues, fireworks, trips to the amusement park, and other outings can lead to flexible summer bedtimes.  Get your child back on a school-night schedule about a week before school starts by gradually moving up their bedtime.  Start their nighttime routine about 10-15 minutes earlier each night, until you reach the ideal time for them to be in bed.  Likewise, wake them up about 10-15 minutes earlier every morning, until they are waking up at the same time they need to wake up for school.  Making the change slowly will help them be rested and ready, while minimizing tantrums and procrastination due to a sudden change in bedtime.

Establish School Routines

School-aged children generally have predictable routines during the school year, but those routines often go out the window during summer vacation.  For many children, the start of school can be a bit of a shock, as they transition into spending 6 hours a day in a highly structured setting.  Not to mention that outdoor activities and electronics are replaced by sitting at a desk and learning (the horror!).  Begin to ease your child back into a school-like routine before school starts, by turning off electronics, eating meals around the same time they eat when they’re in school, encouraging them to read, and engaging in structured tasks.

Shop for School Supplies with Your Child

Allowing your child to pick out their own backpack, lunchbox, pencils, crayons, shoes, and clothing will make them feel involved in back-to-school planning and make the actual transition more exciting!

Maintain a Positive Attitude About the End of Summer

This one can be hard for parents and children alike, as the end-of-summer-blues set in.  It’s important to model an optimistic attitude for your child and encourage positive thinking.  Tell them about specific things they can look forward to this school year, like the 3rd grade trip to the science center or the 6th grade talent show.  Arrange playdates before the start of the school year if your child feels out of contact with their friends.  If your child is feeling overwhelmed or nervous about starting a new grade or school, talk to them about their feelings, let them know that it is normal to feel apprehensive, and encourage them to focus on the things they enjoy about school.  Reading books about school can also address some of the jitters they are experiencing and get them ready to fire up a new school year with assurance!

Familiarize Your Child with Their School

Your child may be nervous about the unfamiliar aspects of their new classroom or school, from using a big potty in preschool to using a locker in middle school.  Attending an orientation may help ease their fears and uncertainty.  Orientation gives your child an idea of what to expect at school and is a great way to meet their teacher.  If your child’s school doesn’t host an orientation, set up a time to go visit the school, find their classroom, and possibly meet their teacher.  You can also take an informal trip to their school to play on the playground.  Role play situations to prepare your child for scenarios they may be anticipating, like how to introduce themselves to a new classmate or buy lunch in the cafeteria.

Assess Your Child’s Health

Schedule your child’s annual check-up before the school year begins.  This will give you the chance to discuss your child’s physical, emotional, and psychological development with your pediatrician, as well as address any concerns.

The beginning of the school year is an adjustment for not only your child, but your entire family.  Follow these tips, and soon everyone will be comfortable in their new routine as your child sets off to school!