- Lay the groundwork. Help your kids get ready for back to school by involving them in the process. Give them part of the supplies shopping list and let them get excited about all the cool new stuff. I also give them an opportunity to buy something to share with classmates on the first day of school. For younger kids this can be stickers or cute erasers or some other small, fun items.
- It’s also good to get the backpack and lunch box organized. Make sure they have a water bottle they can open easily (one with the lid attached is best) and that the backpack isn’t too heavy. You can write their name on the backpack but write on the inside or in a place that a teacher can find it but that can’t be seen when they are wearing it. (This is for safety to prevent strangers outside the school knowing your child’s name).
- If possible, meet the teachers and tour the school beforehand. This is especially important for kindergarten and elementary students. It makes a huge difference if they have met the teacher before the first day and if the are familiar with the classroom and where they are likely to be sitting.
- Walk them through their first day. My younger daughter started preK when she was 3. She was anxious and so I helped her by detailing the day with a general schedule (beginning of class, circle time or story time, play time, snack, coloring, recess, lunch, etc.). I would also recommend driving by the school so that the kids get a sense of where they will be going.
- Set up a clear space for the kids to find their uniforms in the morning and to put their backpacks and etc when they return home. It’s also helpful if there is a designated space or folder for school communiques and folders or files set up in advance for the kids artwork and finished projects.
- Another really important tip for younger kids (especially those starting school for the first time), tell them when you will pick them up in a way they will understand. My 3 year old had no idea what 1 o’clock meant so I told her I would pick her up after lunchtime.
- Roll back bedtime gradually and start earlier. We have been rolling back bedtime since mid-August. From 9pm during the summer to 8:30pm and then the next week 8pm and by the time school starts, 7:30pm. A well rested child is much less likely to have a meltdown on the first day.
- Expect crying – especially for younger kids. When I took my 3 year old on the first day, she did her best to hold back the tears. I knew it would be difficult and so I brought along a secret weapon. My daughter loves playing with my lipsticks and makeup so on her first day, I brought my favorite Mac lipstick. When I got ready to leave, I gave it to her and asked her to keep it safe for me. She was delighted to be allowed to have it and clung to that lipstick most of the day. It didn’t stop the tears completely but at least it served as a small distraction to help her through the separation anxiety. (and in case you’re wondering, no, I never saw it again…but the sacrifice was well worth it!). You don’t have to hand over a tube of your favorite lipstick though. Perhaps a laminated photo of the two of you or a special token bought just for the occasion.
- Do something fun on the first day. Wake up a little earlier and take photos using fun back to school printables (there are literally thousands on Pinterest) or stop by and get them a muffin from a coffeeshop. Take a positive, happy attitude and that will help the kids also feel excited.
Back to school can be a stressful time for parents and kids. Children are worried about their new teachers, which friends will be in the same classes and which ones won’t. There are a multitude of issues – uniforms, schedule, transport, bedtime, homework, after school activities, etc that need sorting. Here are a few tips and ideas to help make the transition for you and your children a bit easier.