You may not remember, but heading back to school at the end of two carefree, fun-filled, unscheduled months can be a bit stressful on a kid (and a parent!). Even if they are excited to get back the school, there can still be some apprehension that goes along with the first week of school. And if they happen to be changing schools, it can be even more stressful.
Here are 3 ways to help ease the stress and ramp up the fun for back to school:
Routines. We all love to hate them. But having a routine can be very calming and reassuring for most children. When they know what to expect, what is coming next, they can relax and let the worries go. So, start with some routines a few weeks before the first day back to the classroom.
If you are like me, then you probably let the bed time routines slide a bit during the summer (I mean, who can go to sleep while the sun is till pouring into your window!). Start easing back on the later bed times incrementally, maybe 15 minutes every few nights. This will make the transition from late nights to school nights much easier on everyone.
If your child is visual, you can create fun school day schedule on the fridge, a white board, or even a stylish chalkboard (make one together as a fun get ready for school activity). Make them out of construction paper AND put them on the fridge. Yes, that is a real thing! Click here for the details. Make a check list of what they need to do in the morning, what to bring to school, what to do after school.
Along with the bedtime routine, you might have let the morning routine slide a bit as well. Depending on how they have been spending their days, they may need to adjust to getting up earlier and having a meal right away. Start a week or two ahead and it will be smooth sailing in September.
I swear, focusing on routines and now, getting organized, may seem dry and boring, these will set the stage to back to school success. I promise.
Getting organized includes things like shopping early for supplies, replace or repair clothing, check on things like backpacks, lunch bags and runners (they will need replacing more often than you like, at least til they are older and not growing as much each school year.) Also, make sure you have a fresh cheque book ready – I seem to ONLY use cheques at the start of a new school year! The first day of school seems to always be homework day for ME (all the paperwork they bring home that day is crazy!)
Also it is good to make a plan for the dreaded school breakfast time AND packed lunches. These always take up a lot of time and are often stressful, so make a plan while it’s still summer. Consulting your child on their likes and dislikes is also a good idea. NO, they can’t request chips and soda. But if they prefer chicken to roast, hummus to cream cheese, bananas to apples, you can save a lot of waste and a lot of whining by getting their input (and by whining I mean YOU whining about the waste!)
Here are a few ideas for back to school breakfasts and lunches (no Pinterest or Martha worthy skills required!). Try some of the make-ahead ideas, especially for breakfast. A favourite in my house is our home made egg “mcmuffins”. We make a huge batch, assembly line style, and freeze them wrapped in paper towels in a GIANT ziploc bag. They just need a few minutes in the microwave to have a healthy on the go breakfast. No fuss.
Get your calendar in order – mark off the known factors now. Appointments, after school activities, PD days, etc. Then you are ready when school actually starts to get where you need to be and when.
Designate some areas in your home for homework and for storing backpacks, etc. When everyone knows where things are supposed to go, it will make it easier for you to nag them to actually put things there (no guarantees it will work though!)
Keep your own schedule light for the first week back to school if you can. Your child will want to talk to you about school. They might also be grumpier and misbehaved because they are tired and/or anxious, especially the younger children. It’s tiring to go from summer to school. If you can, make time to help ease anxiety and fatigue around the change in routines.
If your child is feeling a bit unsure about school or they just like to have some FUN with you, they may find having some back to school traditions help to ease the way and give them something to look forward too. Here are a few ideas for you:
- First day of school photo. The partner to this idea is also the LAST day of school photo, so you can compare them. Put that task on your calendar the MINUTE you take the first day photo.
- Notes in their lunch – maybe you can’t muster up enough ideas or energy for a note everyday, but how about one AWESOME note for their first day. Make it something silly and fun, so they will have a smile when they read it.
- Last summer meal – make the evening meal the night before school starts one last awesome summer meal. Maybe it’s a bonfire, or BBQ or a picnic somewhere in your community.
- First night of school celebration meal. Make that first dinner as a family a special one, a chance to talk out all the news of the first day of school and look forward to a special dinner.
- Dress up in a different costume everyday and greet them when they get home…ha! Okay, I am not ACTUALLY suggesting this one, but this guy did it and it was awesome! My kids would be mortified at this idea! But it sure is fun to think about the possibilities.
- After school “attack”. Make it something different every year, and make it age appropriate.You can greet your kindergartener with a confetti attack. My son, any age, was SO thrilled had I bombed him with water balloons, or a nerf attack (actually at 18, he still loves stuff like this!) Keep them guessing at what it will be each year, and they can look forward to it all day long. Note to parents: when they become tweens you should no longer do this, or suffer the wrath of a hormonal, eye rolling child.
Back to School time is always one of my personal favourite times of year. It feels like a “new year” and while the carefree feeling of summer is fun, it is also refreshing to start the new year. As long as everyone is positive and supportive of how all family members are feeling, it can be a wonderful time for children.
From your Things Engraved Social Team,