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[Back-to-School] 7 Tips for Parents

[Back-to-School] 7 Tips for Parents

Another summer has flown by, and children will be starting to head back to the classroom! This is always an exciting time, but we also know just how busy it can get for parents and caregivers working hard to get their learners ready for a successful new school year. We’ve put together these seven tips to help you stay organized and make sure that your child’s transition into the new school year is a smooth one.

1. Get back into a routine

The transition from laid-back summer days to the more rigid school-year schedule can be a rude awakening for students and parents. Make the change less painful on everyone involved by easing into the school-year routine over the last couple of weeks of summer. Slowly push back bedtime to what it will be during the school year, and create a routine to wind down beforehand. One of the best things to do is to avoid any kind of screen time an hour before bedtime. Try replacing TV or games with reading, journaling, or simply talking. Start getting your child out of bed a little earlier each day as well, and establish a morning routine of getting ready for the day that includes a healthy, well-rounded breakfast.

Bonus tip: If this year will be your child's first time eating lunch during the school day, try practicing how lunchtime will go a few times before the first day of school. It may seem a little silly, but you don't want your child to come home with a full lunchbox and/or hungry the first week of school because they didn't have time to eat everything or couldn't open any tricky packaging. Some kids are slow eaters, and might need some time to adjust to eating lunch in a new setting. Before school starts, describe how lunchtime will work to your child, set a timer so they can see how long they'll have to eat, and help them get used to opening their own packaging.

2. Take care of check-ups

Make sure that your child is ready to roll by getting time-consuming appointments out of the way before returning to the classroom! Schedule medical and dental checkups before the first day of school, and address any concerns you have—whether they pertain to physical health or social and emotional well-being.

By taking care of appointments like this prior to the start of school, you can avoid the hassle of pulling children out of school or scheduling around school-year activities. For older children, also be aware that most school sports teams require a physical for participation. Be sure to obtain any forms that are required by your child’s school, have them filled out by your doctor, and confirm that your child knows whom they must be returned to.

3. Develop a filing system

There’s never a shortage of paperwork to keep track of at the start of the school year. Review all materials that your child’s school sends out before the start of the year regarding schedules, classrooms, supply lists, health and emergency forms, extracurricular activity sign-ups, and important dates. Create a filing system to differentiate between forms that must be completed, important information for reference, and less-important handouts that don’t need to be kept for long. Establish a system like this early on so that the paperwork your child brings home throughout the year stays organized.

4. Make a family calendar

Today’s students are busier than ever before, and that means parents’ schedules are that much more jam-packed too! Keep track of all the activities, events, and important dates in your household by creating a “master calendar” for your family. Use a color-coding system to easily differentiate between different family members’ schedules, and keep it posted somewhere visible—like the fridge, above your kitchen counter, or next to the door where you all typically come and go. This strategy can be a huge help in making sure that no appointments, extracurricular practices, or PTA meetings fall through the cracks. 

5. Designate a homework area

Setting up a specific “work area” can help your child establish a productive homework routine once school starts. Older children should have the option to work in their room or another quiet area of the house, like an office or sunroom. Make sure that they have a spacious, organized desk; comfortable chair; and good desk lamp in whatever area they choose. For younger children, designate an area in your living room or kitchen where you can keep the supplies they need, supervise them, and encourage them as they work.

6. Reconnect with classmates

For some students, the social aspect of school breeds anxiety, and seeing friendly faces on the first day of school can make all the difference. Help your child reestablish friendships that may have drifted during the busy summer months by setting up a few playdates with classmates in the weeks leading up to school. In the process, you will have the opportunity to reconnect with other parents and caregivers as well.

7. Meet your child’s teacher

Building a relationship with your child’s teacher early on can make a huge difference throughout the school year. Take advantage of your school’s open house or back-to-school night to meet your child’s new teacher (or teachers), and break the ice in advance. This can help put your child at ease for the first day of school, and it gives you a chance to establish a line of communication early on.

Bring up any concerns you have, and talk about what method you both prefer to use for regular communication. Take the opportunity to express your interest in volunteering in your child’s classroom as well. You can find out what kind of help your child’s teacher would appreciate and set the stage for your involvement in your child’s education. Remember, your child's teacher is meeting a whole class worth of new parents and families, so be patient if you have to remind them of your name a few times!

Looking for additional resources to make sure that your child gets off to a good start this school year? Check out our Family Resources page for helpful on-demand resources! 

This post was originally published August 2018 by Sarah Cornelius and has been updated.