Back to School Tips for Parents

As summer comes to a close and families gear up for school, it is important to recognize that we, as parents, can influence our children’s attitude and performance in school.  The transition from the summer to fall can be challenging for both parents and students.  Although every child transitions differently, parents can help by using a few of these tips:

Before School Begins:

Mark your calendar with important dates: Many schools post their calendars online over the summer.  Activities such as parent conference week with early dismissal days and Back to School Night come quickly at the beginning of the year.  Plan ahead and arrange for babysitting, if necessary.

Practice going to school: “Play school” at home with your younger child to help them learn how to act at school.

Practice your good-bye ritual: Whether it is a high-five hand slap, a kiss on the cheek, saying “have a great day” or “see you soon,” practice it at home and stick to it every day.

Buy school supplies:  You may be able to find supply lists on your child’s school’s website or at local office supply stores.  Save receipts so that you can make returns, later.

Re-establish routines: At least one week prior to the beginning of school, re-establish bedtime and mealtimes (especially breakfast) routines.

Visit school: If your child is younger and will be in a different part of the building, or if they are switching to a new school, help your child locate their potential classrooms, lunch areas, etc.  If your child is older and attending middle or high school, enlist the help of an older sibling or friend to give them a tour of lockers, the cafeteria, etc

Create a homework space: Older children need a quiet place in a separate part of the house away from the distractions of younger siblings, the TV, or dinner preparation.  Younger children need an area where monitoring and encouragement can occur.  You can make a tri-fold homework corner to divide an area like the kitchen table up for each child: Cozy Homework Corner

Set up a spot to keep backpacks and lunch boxes:  Designate a spot to hang backpacks, write notes of encouragement, hang weekly newsletters, and post schedules for each of your children.  Here’s a sample of one we love: Children’s Homework Message Center

Get back into the habit of planning dinners ahead of time and grocery shopping once a week.  Freeze a few easy dinners to make meal preparation easier.  We’re all busy, but gathering around the dinner table together allows you to check in with your child about their day and talk about any problems that they’re having.  Here are some quick and easy back-to-school dinners: Quick and Easy Back to School Dinners

The First Week:

Clear your own schedule:  Because the first week back is stressful for everyone, try to postpone late night meetings or extra activities so that you can be free to help your child acclimate to the school routine and overcome anxiety that he or she may feel.

Make lunches the night before school.  Healthy lunches help your child to stay energized throughout the school day.  Take a look at this post about easy lunch box time savers: Lunch Box Time Savers

Create reminders for your child:  Use an index card or your child’s school planner to write down pertinent information such as their teacher’s name and classroom number, your contact information (especially for younger children), and carpool buddy’s or family member’s contact information. And anything else that they may need to feel confident that they have all of the information they need to be successful away from you.

Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher or homeroom teacher: Whether you say hi during pickup or send a brief email, it is nice to show the teacher that you view them as a partner in your child’s learning.  A small gift card to a coffee shop, a baked good, or a note of appreciation may help to convey your appreciation for their influence in your child’s life.

Overcoming Anxiety:

Listen to your child’s concerns about going to school and validate them: Whether or not they want to attend school, they will have to.  If your child says that they don’t want to go, say, “In our family, we don’t say we don’t want to go.  Instead, we talk about how we’re going to make school fun and work through the challenges that we have there.”

Recognize that school is often unpredictable, which leads to stress: Students may have a substitute teacher, their best friend may be sick, there may be a fire drill, or they may deal with social disappointment.  Teach your child how to cope with these unknowns and talk about solutions as problems arise.

Let your children know you care:  Send notes or texts reinforcing their ability to cope.  Remind them that it is normal to feel nervous; but that they will be just fine once they becomes more familiar with the new teacher, classmates, and school routine.

Try not to overreact: Young children may experience separation anxiety or shyness but teachers know what to do to help them.  Try not to linger.  Simply reassure them that you love them, will think of them during the day, and will be back.

Extracurricular Activities:

Allow time for play:  The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents set aside time for their children to participate in free, unstructured play.  One or two structured activities (baseball, dance class, piano lessons, etc.) a week are fun and teach new skills, but too much scheduled time can make it harder to concentrate on schoolwork and may lead to perfectionistic tendencies.

Plan ahead:  Certain days of the week (such as Fridays and Mondays) may be more difficult than others.  For example, your child may have a spelling or math test each Friday and their homework packet may be due each Monday.  Try to arrange your child’s activity schedule with this information in mind and make sure that he or she gets plenty of rest the night before.

When Problems Arise:

The Center for Learning and Behavioral Solutions offers a great deal of help for children struggling with the academic, organizational, and social-emotional demands of school.  Your child may benefit from training in planning and carrying out tasks, speaking to a professional about problems with friends or teachers and coping with the anxiety they are feeling, or academic support in areas of need.  Contact us today to learn more about our services –

Back-to-School Transitions: Tips for Parents By Ted Feinberg, EdD, NCSP, & Katherine C. Cowan

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