We know. We can hardly believe it either. With weeks before the return to school we have to start shifting gears back to routine, education, and after-school activities.
“Already?! But we haven’t done all the fun summer things yet!” you may cry out, incredulously.
Yes, it is indeed that time already. Time to get moving, that is!
A smooth transition back to school begins with about a month’s worth of preparation. Of course, this doesn’t need to be drudgery, math drills, and rushing to complete that summer reading assignment. Here are 10 tips to make the process of returning to academia a little smoother!
Bedtime begins 20 minutes earlier each night
Has your child begun staying up until 3:30am every night? It’s easy to lose a basic sleep schedule during summer break and it happens to a lot of us. A tip from an elementary school educator based out of New York told us, “It’s a lot easier if you begin early prepping for bedtime and those early morning wake ups that are coming. If you start moving the bedtime-clock back 20 minutes each night, your child will be ready to go come school time!” Plus, it will help with the very likely chance of complaining. We’re all familiar with the tried and true, “But I’m not tired!” and “Just one more [hour of video game, episode, etc]”. Explain why you are doing this to your child so they understand the reasoning and importance behind it (the average elementary and middle schooler requires between 9 to 11 hours of sleep a night to fully recharge, with high schoolers requiring approximately 8 to 10 hours) and stick to your guns when they protest!
Complete that summer bucket list
Still haven’t been to Water World? Haven’t gone on a camping trip? Now is the time to reassess what is feasible, financially available, and realistic. Engage your child in conversations about what they would like to do and what they could do without (or didn’t want to do in the first place). Allowing your child to have a voice can be critical for their sense of autonomy and involvement in your family system.
Go back to school shopping with your child
The big stores already have school items on display. Even if you don’t purchase anything quite yet, taking a brief tour through Target’s office section and school supply section can begin the enthusiasm trend. Is it in the budget to get a back-to-school outfit? Try perusing online options with your child/teen to get an idea of what fashion they like, how they would like to present themselves for the year, and what is financially realistic in expectations.
Complete all necessary paperwork/physicals/shots
Is your kiddo playing football this year? Do they need a permission slip for a school outing? Trying to get ahead of the game will be in your best interest to avoid the last-minute rush. As most physicals last a year, completing it now will have your family ready to go for required medical evaluations to participate in various activities or school in general.
Have a safety-first attitude and plan
Engage your family in conversations about basic safety-oriented topics. For example, who will be picking up and dropping off the kids from school? Will they be allowed to be home alone after school? What are some emergency numbers of safe adults? Are those emergency numbers placed somewhere in the house that is easy to find? Who can your child speak to if they feel they are being bullied at school?
New school? Do a run through!
Nothing is quite as daunting as being the new kid at school. Or just being at a new location in general. Or returning to the same place and having magically forgotten your locker number and combination! There is a comfort that comes along with knowing where you’re going, who your teachers are, where your locker is, etc. If your school offers an orientation day, try to attend it. If that is not an option, see if someone at the school can offer you a personal walk through. Staff are often in the office prepping and can take some time to walk you around.
Prep for after-school activities that your child is passionate about
One of the most common issues we see in the child/adolescent therapy realm are well-intentioned parents who either A) sign their kids up for an activity the child does NOT want to participate in, B) Don’t have any involvement with their child’s extracurricular activities and don’t do anything, or C) Completely overwhelm their child with mandatory participation in ballet and piano lessons and karate and art classes and boy scouts and… you get the idea. See what activities spark your child’s interest and what clubs/activities are available in your community or school. From anime to tennis, there is something for everyone out there. Making your child participate in an activity they can’t stand will just lead to arguments and burn out (on both the guardian’s side as well as the kiddo). Your normally art-based kid wants to try cheerleading for the first time? Great! Encourage them to expand beyond what they are used to and supporting them in their endeavors and praise them for being brave and trying new stuff. They won’t like everything, but having an expansive pallet of “At least I tried” helps build confidence, resiliency, and determination skills.
Have a visible family schedule
From google docs to fun calendars you can put on the wall, having a visible and tangible weekly schedule for all members helps to clarify who will be where and doing what. This way both kids and guardians can refer back to the calendar for clarification on if a parent is working on a certain day or if Johnny does indeed have a test and soccer practice on Friday. (Tip: If your child has a syllabus, encourage them to write out all important due dates as soon as they receive the syllabus in order to keep those big events in mind right from the start)
Breakfast and Lunch prep
Will your child be sent to school with a few dollars to buy lunch at the cafeteria or will they come with a packed lunch? Begin having conversations with your child about the importance of nutrition. A healthy diet is one of the keys to a well-functioning mind and body. Try stocking your house with food that displays whole grain, low sugar, fibers, and proteins. Your kiddo not hungry in the morning? Small baggies of fruit and grains or a cup of yogurt and half a peanut butter and banana sandwich to bring along until they become hungry can go a long way!
Stay involved and encourage your kid to be themselves!
The school years are hard, no doubt. By remaining engaged in your child’s life via attending their sporting events, art shows, or even by simply debriefing the day with them you have the opportunity to provide wisdom, support, and to get to know who your child is becoming. Try getting your child to verbalize their day beyond the words “good”, “fine”, or “ok” – you might get more info than you were expecting! Simply by being present and involved in your child’s life your family can grow together and transform potentially tumultuous times in to memories and lessons to last a lifetime.