Anticipation builds as the new school year approaches. Every year my kids become antsy as the stores fill up with new backpacks, fun colorful accessories, and the latest in locker and school supplies. And even though I am not ready to begin the process of letting summer with my kids slip though my fingers, I grudgingly give in and get to work. The excitement of and preparation for a new school year can be stressful for the parents and their children.
So, what can parents do to make the transition smooth for themselves and their children? Especially for the child who is attending a traditional school for the first time or going to a new school? Here are some ideas to get everyone ready for school.
Schedule a visit. Meeting the teacher and walking through the building does a lot to ease the stress of change. If your child’s schedule requires changing classrooms and the use of a locker, then take them to school and encourage them to physically walk through their schedule in order to become familiar with their locker. Not only does this help your child gain a sense of familiarity, but it also helps you. When you think of your child during the day, you can be calm knowing where your child is. (Make and keep a copy of their schedule.)
Get the paperwork done. Mark this task off your to-do list early. Doing so allows you the time to address anything that may have been overlooked, like a copy of of your child’s inoculations. Make and keep copies in case paperwork is misplaced. Keep a folder at home for each of your children with all required school paperwork, class list, phone numbers, class schedule and any other important papers. If you need something, you’ll know where it is. Last minute worries and misplaced paper add to stress. You’re working towards smooth, yes?
Take your child shopping. Going shopping for school supplies is our annual first step of getting ready for school, part of our tradition for transitioning from summer back to school. In the early part of August, we wade through the aisles with shopping carts and our lists of required school supplies. Each of my four kids has a copy of their list and runs through the aisles, grabbing the items on their list and throwing the supplies into the carts. I check what is in the carts against my master list. I also adjust supplies, to account for the myriad of school projects that will pop up throughout the school year and the items that may not go the distance over the course of the school year (extra poster board, erasers, folders, plastic rulers, highlighters, dry erase makers).
Checkups! If your insurance allows, consider scheduling checkups in early to mid-summer. Seeing the dentist and doctor earlier, especially when inoculations are required, disassociates them with the start of the school. Middle and high school sports physicals will need to be completed before your child begins practices for their fall sports.
Connect or reconnect. Consider a simple get together or picnic with school friends and families you may not have seen over the summer. Reestablishing friendships and catching up does wonders for everyone. This is a great opportunity for new families to get acquainted as well. If you are the new family ask for a mentor family who has a child of the same age as yours. The mentor family can “hold your hand” as you and your child transition into the new school environment, answering questions and helping you become familiar with the system.
Move the clock up. Summer is time to replenish – to slow and let down. Even if you work, your child, whether they have been at camp or at home, has been sleeping in and staying up later. Gradually begin moving bedtimes and wake-up times back to school schedules. Changing the schedule early should help you get some added sleep since you aren’t staying up as late either. Help the younger kids say good bye to the fireflies and flashlight tag and assist your middle or high-schooler with a small scavenger hunt or barbecue with friends. The excitement of the new school year, adjustment to class work and studying, and added expectations wears your child out.
Go over expectations. Sit down with your child and go over what you and your child’s school expects of them. Some schools require signed agreements from the student that holds them responsible for their actions, like cheating, turning work in on time, responsibility, and treatment of other students. If these are required by your child’s school, make sure you discuss the agreement and that your child understands what they are signing. If you or your child feels anything needs clarification, get it and keep a copy of the signed agreement.
Organize and mark everything. When you are shopping for school supplies with your child, get yourself some new supplies too. I always get myself a new supply of sticky notes, permanent markers, highlighters, paint pens, and notebooks. I purchase storage bins if they are needed. Extra supplies go into the bins and are used by my kids as needed throughout the school year. My personal supplies go into the desk drawer, necessary for marking clothing, new backpacks and school supplies. Permanent markers won’t work on every surface, so paint pens come in handy (and they come in white).
Moving through the steps of preparing your child to return to school allows you and your child to become ready for school. If you find you aren’t there when the bus picks them up that first morning, remember, you’ll see their sweet face across the dinner table later.
Judy M. Miller lives in the Midwest with her husband and four children. She is the author of What To Expect From Your Adopted Tween and Writing to Heal Adoption Grief: Making Connections and Moving Forward.