It’s that time of year where we find ourselves loading our shopping carts with pencils, notebooks, glue sticks, crayons, and more. Instead of a day spent lounging by the pool, we suddenly are immersed in the time-honored tradition of back to school shopping.
This rite of passage is the beginning of the end of summer, which inevitably signals our sons and daughters will soon be facing an upcoming school year.
For most children, this transition is often met with mixed emotions. It’s completely normal for a child to feel first day jitters and a little anxiety as the school year approaches. Whether they are starting kindergarten or beginning their senior year of high school, they might be worried about a lot of new unknowns, such as: classrooms, expectations, teachers, schools, schedules, and classmates.
Thankfully, with a little reassurance and guidance, we can help our children ease their concerns as they start heading back to school.
Scroll through the following 10 tips to mentally prepare our children as they say goodbye to summer and hello to a new school year:
Begin a conversation. As parents, we need to encourage our kids to talk to us about their feelings- both the excitement and concerns. As they face a new grade, take this opportunity to listen for any concerns so we can address the issue over the next few weeks. By labeling and identifying their emotions, we are empowering them with social and emotional intelligence skills that will help them overcome adversity long after they graduate.
Take advantage of orientation, back to school nights, and registration days. Most children worry about where the bathrooms are, what their schedule will be like, how to use a locker, if their teacher is nice, and so much more. Thankfully, many schools offer students an opportunity to visit before classes actually begin. If your school doesn’t host an event, call ahead and arrange a tour.
Be a role model! We need to be careful about how we talk about school, teachers, administration, and classmates in front of our children. If our little ones hear us being disrespectful or complaining, we may involuntarily be setting them up for a negative outlook when it comes to their education.
Get organized. As the carefree days of summer fade, we can help our kids gain a little control in their lives by helping them get organized. Develop a designated spot to hang up book bags, match acceptable school outfits, create a distraction-free space to do homework, and pack school supplies so they are ready to start the school year with a clean slate.
Don’t wait until the night before to implement new bedtimes and wakeup calls. A few weeks before the first day, start practicing your new routines. Gradually easing children into a new schedule will help the first few days of school will go a lot smoother. Our boys and girls will be getting enough sleep to function at their best and the change in schedule won’t be a shock to their system.
Take them shopping. Allowing kids to pick our their new supplies might be trying, especially as we navigate the crowded and disorganized aisles of notebooks and folders. However, this gives children a chance to get excited about school and provide opportunities to talk about how they might use the new supplies in the classroom.
Read books and watch movies about possible situations kids may encounter. Let’s face it, school can be scary and intimidating. Take advantage of media materials to help our kids learn what is expected and to develop coping strategies for some possible situations like bullying. This strategy is especially helpful because it allows children opportunities to develop empathy, talk about their feelings, and identify with others from the safety of their homes.
Teach them strategies for introducing themselves to new classmates. Our kids have been away from their friends for a few months and might worry they won’t know anyone or have friends waiting on the playground. Empower them with ways to make new friends by learning how to introduce themselves, show kindness, ask to play with others, and notice signs someone needs a friend.
Reassure them that everything will be alright. Try to point out all the positives of starting school. Instead of focusing on the negative, look forward to all the fun and new opportunities that await them.
Create a new family tradition. Take advantage of this yearly occurrence and make it special for our children. Celebrate a new year with fun first-day traditions that can range from funny pictures, bus stop brunches, or eating dessert first at dinner. The main thing is to look ahead and embrace the fresh beginning.
How does your family prepare for the upcoming school year?
Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.