My kids are all grown up now, but I completely empathize with all of the parents struggling to get their kids ready for school after such an awesome summer. I remember hearing a fair deal of whining over the years, especially from the younger ones. What can parents do to beat the back-to-school blues and make sure that their child is mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared to take on the new year? Here are some tips I’ve gathered over the years.
1. Spend about a week developing a morning routine.
During the summer, sleep schedules tend to go haywire. For at least a few days before school starts, start waking the kids up earlier and earlier. Get them to the point where waking up at 6:30 a.m. is no big deal anymore. Start to have breakfast in the morning (which is another habit that can be abandoned in the summer). Practice getting ready to go somewhere. Then, you’ll have a few days to get both them and yourself used to being up at that hour. Trust me, less complaining will happen on the first day of school as a result.
2. Gather school supplies together.
I can’t stress this enough: Allowing your child to pick out their own school supplies (from the colors to the type of notebooks to the pencil cases) provides them with autonomy and independence. When they pick out their own school supplies, they’ll already be invested in school. School can be something they secretly get a little excited about. So splurge on that notebook that has a famous character on it; it could make them happier all year.
3. Get and mentally rehearse the schedule for the day.
Some kids get really nervous on the first day. Mine did, and it’s normal. To stave off some of those nerves, make sure that your child has a copy of their schedule and has mentally rehearsed it enough so that they know basically where they need to go and when. This is especially true for high school kids, whose schedules can be quite complicated. Of course, last-minute changes may happen, so let them know that they also may need to just go with the flow. Also, they may want to record important information, like their locker combination, in one place ahead of time.
4. Get those gears turning.
Not all children are the type to enjoy summer reading, but it’s important to keep them thinking. Nudging them back into academics is kind of like jump-starting an engine. Give them some workbooks, reading, or homework to do before the summer ends. Or at the very least, ask them about what they had been learning at the end of last year.
5. Emotionally support them in whatever way you can.
What I loved to do when my kids were younger was to write little messages on napkins to be tucked into their lunchboxes. Some parents like to give a positive pep talk about having fun and making new friends before school starts. Some like to walk their kids to and from school or drop them off at school for the first couple of days. Others simply give extra hugs. While us adults know that the first day of going back to school is just a normal part of everyday life, for kids, it feels absolutely life-changing. Sit them down before and after and talk about the positive aspects of this experience.
These are some of my tips from one dad to the parents of New York. Reassure your kids that they’re going to learn a lot and have fun, and they likely will!