Transitions can be difficult, especially if you’re really enjoying the thing you’re doing and you have to stop to do something that might not be as fun. I suspect that’s how some children feel as the end of summer draws near. It’s the signal that they need to bid adieu to a relaxed schedule and, with help from their parents, get ready to go back to school.
To help your children get adjusted to a new routine …
Transition before school starts
In my former life as a preschool teacher, I sang songs with my students to help them transition from one activity to the next. While you may not want to break into song every day until schools starts, you can start the back-to-school conversation with your children to get them accustom to the return of stricter schedules.
- Help children emotionally prepare. A recent study by the Mayo Clinic suggests that some children may feel anxious in the days leading up to the start of school, particularly if there will be an unfamiliar or new routine. If your children will be attending a new school, take a tour or attend your school’s open house (back-to-school night) to get them familiar with their new classroom and teacher (and to find out where the bathrooms are). Find out if any of your children’s friends will be attending the same school or be in the same class. Knowing that they will have someone to talk to or eat lunch with can help them feel more comfortable.
- Adjust sleep schedules. Give your children some practice time with getting up and going to sleep earlier, a week to two before school year starts. Implementing the new sleep routine the night before the first day of school will probably put them in a grumpy mood, which is likely not a good way to start the year.
- Plan for new activities. New activities can put a well-designed schedule in state of flux. Figure out what changes need to be made (transportation, new gear) so that transitions can flow smoothly.
- Solidify routines for yourself. Parents will need to get back in the swing of things, too. If you’re the one who is on wake up duty, who prepares meals, or drops off children at school (especially if you carpool), consider doing a practice run to see what things in your system are working well and which ones need fine tuning.
Help your children remember what to do
Having a chore chart or a checklist will help your children remember the things they’re responsible for each school day. Purchase a chart (or download a list) that your kids like or create one with them. The tasks for each of your children will vary depending on age and how involved they are in preparing themselves for school each day. Younger children may have self-care items on their list (brush your teeth, put on your shoes, help make your bed) while older children may need homework or project reminders. They may also benefit from using apps (if they have a smart phone or tablet, or have access to yours) like Dictionary.com, Mental Case, iStudiez Pro, iHomework, or Evernote to help them manage their schedules and get things done.
Find out what the school needs from you
There are many things, in addition to shopping for supplies, that parents need to do before the class bell first rings (e.g. submitting a birth certificate, proof of residency, a doctor’s approval form if playing sports). Schools often provide lists of things you need for the first day of school, so check their website or give them a call to get more information.
Also, be sure to check on other school rules and ask questions:
- Is there a particular dress code?
- Will your child have a locker (and need to purchase a lock)?
- What happens if your child is late for class?
- What pieces of technology is your child permitted to have on school grounds?
- What happens if a child breaks the rules?
Create a school command center
Having a central location for all-things school related will keep everyone in the know. Post a calendar of events (including volunteer and extracurricular activities), school flyers with important information, papers requiring parent signatures, transportation schedules, and contact information (main office, carpooling parents, after care, sports coach) in a central location everyone in the family can access. On days when things go a little wonky, having a command center will be very helpful, especially if you have more than one child and they attend different schools. If you prefer using an app, consider using Cozi Online Family Calendar or PlumLife.
Helping your children get organized and ready to go back to school doesn’t have to be chaotic. With a little planning ahead of time, the transition can run smoothly for the entire family.