It’s about that time of year again. The time when the specialty sections of Kroger and Target are stocked with rainbow bins, cartoon backpacks, and discount Crayolas. The time when you frantically fill your calendar with shopping trips, haircuts, and last minute summer fun. That’s right–it’s back to school season!
The bittersweet ending of summer brings up all sorts of questions for parents and students alike.
What will the new teacher be like?
What if they can’t figure out the new school building?
Will we have the same issues we had last year?
Will my kid have any friends?
Trust me parents, first week jitters are totally normal. Change is hard–especially when it involves your kiddos. Luckily, because of my job, I have learned plenty of ways to help keep yourself, and your kids, calm and help ease this (sometimes painful) transition back into school.
1. For elementary school learners, spend some time reading stories about transitioning back into school.
Children’s literature just keeps getting better and better. You can find all sorts of stories that model some of these trickier social situations (like going back to school) and use them as springboards for conversations with your kiddos.
Here are some of my favorites!
The Pout Pout Fish and David are both parts of larger series of books, so if your little ones fall in love with the characters, they’ll make for great stories to keep around the house. All of these titles can be found at your local library or on Amazon.
2. Start adding small parts of the school morning routine into your mornings.
Whether you have a teenager who loves to sleep until 11 or an elementary student who is up at the crack of dawn, transitioning kids into a school routine can seem like a menacing task. Daycare schedules and babysitters are totally different than getting them dressed, fed, and out of the house by 7:30 am.
Take some time to sit and process. Think about what you want your school morning routine to look like. Do you want them up by a certain time? Will they pack their own lunch or pick out their own clothes this year? What time will they need to be awake? What do you need to do and what do they need to do in order to have somewhat successful mornings?
Once you have your brainstormed list, pick one thing to begin working on now with your kids. Slowly getting them used to the new routine will help alleviate some of those negative emotions and difficult transitioning that all kiddos go through. When they know what to expect, they will be able to relax (and so will you).
One thing I love doing for my younger students is providing a visual schedule. Simply designing a little chart with pictures for each step of the morning routine can promote their independence and help reduce a lot of anxiety. I’ve also found visual schedules help with the constant questions like “Mommy, daddy, what’s next? What are we doing? When is breakfast? When are we leaving?” You know the drill.
Here is an example of a super simple visual schedule you could use with your kids! Remember, these can be changed and personalized to meet the needs of students at all ages.
3. Attend school open houses/other first week events
If you’ve had your kids in school for a long time, open houses can feel mundane and boring–even pointless. But even though you know the schools like the back of your hand, your kids may not feel the same way. Meeting the teachers, walking through their schedule, and finding their locker (just to name a few) are all crucial steps for your child to feel comfortable, settled, and ready to take on their first day.
Open houses are a great time for us teachers to get some ‘face time’ with you as parents to starting building the relationship you’ll need throughout the year. Starting off in a positive, low stress context is a much better foundation than waiting till that first phone call home about behavior. Also, teachers are ready to interact during events like this and have the time for a five or ten minute conversation–trust me, those chances to talk are few and far between during the school day–so take advantage of them now!
4. Figure out school transportation and start on the very first day
I have known so many parents who want their child to ride the bus but, on the first day, drive them to school. Now I know there is nothing that gets those likes like a first day of school picture, but trust me, put them on the bus and drive to school without them. Doing so helps cement their routines down and also helps alleviate any bus anxiety. If mom or dad is waiting at school for them, they will feel much more confident.
If you have a teenager who will be driving for the first time, encourage them to take a test drive and find out about parking. High school lots can be a little complicated and a lot of schools require student parking passes within the first week. Knowing these answers will help your older child feel ready for their new found independence.
5. Make the most of your last few weeks of summer
It might seem counterintuitive, but so much of school readiness is based on what happens at home. These last few weeks are the perfect time to make some more memories with your children. Give yourself permission to have the water balloon fight, make the special treat, or do the messy art project. So much growth happens during the school year and the time right before it all starts is definitely special.
Trust me, when students come into school with a rich history of stories and experiences, it enhances their language and literacy skills. I know how hard it is to balance all the aspects of work and kids, but it will be so worth it.
I hope you found these helpful and that you are ready to take on the year!
P.S: if you are wanting to buy anything beyond those silly school supply lists, teachers will literally always request Ziploc bags, tissues, hand sanitizer, and wine 😉
Special thanks to Rachel Dalton, our guest AW Teacher Blogger!