While kids are still spending every minute soaking in these last few weeks of summer weather and vacation time, it’s a good idea to start to mentally prepare your kids to return to school in person in September.
Here are tips on how to help mentally prepare your elementary, middle schooler and teenagers about returning to the classroom before that last day of Labor Day weekend arrives.
Elementary-Middle School Age
Get to Know the School
While your child may already be familiar with their elementary or middle school, many schools will offer a “meet and greet” with your child’s homeroom teacher before the school year begins. If you can attend, it’s a great way for you to help your child familiarize themselves with their teacher, classroom aides, building and their classroom. Children might be able to see their desks and even bring in class supplies ahead of time to leave in a cubby or inside their desks. If your school does not offer “meet and greet” opportunities, try calling the school’s office during these last few weeks of summer to see if you can schedule a quick and easy tour for your child. If your child can visualize where their class is from the entrance of the building, this may even help calm anxious feelings a bit.
Some families may have been doing this slowly over the summer, others may have just started, however find out what each of your children needs by way of school supplies, clothes, shoes, backpacks, calculators, and the list goes on. Make a list of what each child needs vs. wants and check when these items are due to go on sale. Many stores have ongoing back-to-school sales. Perhaps your child wants to pick out school supplies with you to take some ownership of his/her items. By doing so, your child is organizing without truly realizing they are, which also helps with the transition back to school. Before school starts, block off some time to help your child organize their desk or homework space in their room or your home. This way, they are prepared to succeed after the first day of school.
Begin Open Communication
By now, many of you have already discussed the topic of back-to-school with your children. Maybe you have had a few conversations in passing about their new grade, new teacher, bus schedule and after-school activities. The key here is to create a safe space for your child to feel comfortable enough to talk about getting back to school. Perhaps they are avoiding doing their summer work because they are nervous to return to school. Make sure you’re aware of any signs or signals of back-to-school anxiety. Whatever your child is feeling, it’s a good idea to let them know that they can come to you with any fears, concerns, or questions at any time. Your child’s home should be a haven where they can unwind, unload, and feel freedom to be themselves.
Start Waking Your Child Up Early
Research shows that teenagers need sleep and perform better when they are getting good quality sleep. However, a high number of teens have horrible sleeping patterns. Unless they are waking up early to get to their summer job, by now, your teen has a habit of sleeping later than normal since it’s still summer. Try something new – at least a week before school starts, wake them up at the time their school alarm would usually wake them. It would be even better if they got out of their beds and ate some breakfast so that it simulates the start of a normal school morning.
Try to Implement an Hour of Quiet Time at Night
Most teenagers are attached to their phones. However, try to begin setting this rule and boundary now before school is underway. Perhaps your teenagers would sit with the family to watch a baseball game, television show or a movie with the family. Although unheard of in the land of teenagers, maybe they would try to sit down and share a family meal with those in your household. Any way that you can engage your teens in conversation without the phone – especially in the evenings after dinner and after-school activities – can help set the tone for the school day and settle down for the night for a healthy night’s sleep.
Getting organized and open communication as with younger children, also applies to teenagers. Teens are old enough to help pick out their school supplies, back-to-school clothes and clean up their at-home desk space for homework. Although they don’t feel as though they need to communicate with their parents, they do! Parents should be hyper aware of conversations they may bring up in the weeks before school starts and help address any questions or concerns they may have.
Several other strategies for helping your teenager to prepare for back-to-school can be found here.
Hang in there, parents and guardians! Happy new school year everyone.