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Back-to-School Tips: Preparing Your Child for a Successful School Year

Green backpack lies open, school supplies sticking out of the top, on wood floor next to red sneakersSummer activities are winding down, the days are getting shorter, and fall clothes are back on the racks. For some children, this is an exciting time. A new school year is about to begin, and many are looking forward to seeing friends, meeting new people, and resuming enjoyable extracurricular activities. For other kids, this time can be anxiety provoking and stressful.

Regardless of how your child is feeling about the transition back to school, there are some things you can do to help.

Get Back on a Schedule

Summer days are often filled with late nights, lazy mornings, and unstructured time for kids. While this is a great way to recover from the stress of school, it can make the transition back to early mornings and structured time challenging.

It can be helpful to put kids back on their school schedule a week or two before school starts. For example, if bedtime was lenient during the summer, but is typically 9 p.m. during the school year, have them go to bed at 9 p.m. starting the week before. You may not need to get them up early, but they really shouldn’t be sleeping in past 8 a.m. or so during that last week of summer. Scaling back bedtime helps their body readjust to their school sleep schedule and makes that first early morning less challenging for everyone.

Bring Your Kids Back-to-School Shopping

As a parent, it can sometimes be easier to just run to the store and pick up your child’s school supplies in order to avoid the typical arguments over who sits in the front or wanting you to buy other things. However, bringing your child(ren) with you has some benefits.

For one, if kids are part of picking out the supplies, they are likely to pick things they really like. This will go a long way toward ensuring they use and care for their belongings during the year. It also helps them understand what types of supplies they need in order to be successful. Maybe they prefer one big binder for organization or maybe they want a folder for each class. Either way, these conversations during the shopping trip are helpful in preparing them for school and generating enthusiasm for academic endeavors.

Discuss Expectations

A new year brings new excitement and new challenges. It can be helpful to sit down and talk with your kids about successes from last year and about your expectations for them during the upcoming school year. The conversation might include topics such as bedtime, morning routine, academic goals, behavioral expectations, and/or after-school scheduling.

Obviously, as the parent you will have the final say, but there are benefits to encouraging your child(ren) to be part of the conversation.

Instead of just laying out your expectations, it can be helpful to include your child in a discussion around these topics. This helps promote independence, decision-making skills, and problem-solving skills and increases buy-in. Obviously, as the parent you will have the final say, but there are benefits to encouraging your child(ren) to be part of the conversation.

Prepare for Changes

Whether your family just moved or your child is transitioning to a different school, do things to prepare for the changes. Ask your child if they want to take a tour of the new school or meet with the guidance counselor. This can go a long way toward reducing potential anxieties regarding the unknown.

While there is still some summer break left, it may also be helpful to have your child engage in activities that keep them engaged with peers they will see in school.

Talk with Your Child

Check in with your child about how they are feeling about the new school year. Don’t assume they are nervous, excited, happy, etc. Normalize and validate any feelings they might be having. Maybe they’re worried about the social aspects of school. Maybe they are concerned about balancing all their responsibilities. Regardless, having an open dialogue before school starts can open the door to creating solutions before there are problems and helps them to know you are a support.

Returning to school is a big change for children and families after a couple of months of summer fun. By utilizing some of the strategies outlined above, you can help ensure that your family has the best transition possible. However, even the best-laid plans can go awry. So, if your child is feeling particularly overwhelmed about the return to school and does not feel confident they can manage their feelings, connect with a therapist who can help them to develop skills to manage their feelings. And if the transition proves to be particularly rocky for you or your child(ren), seek support sooner rather than later to help get things on track.

© Copyright 2017 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Katelyn Alcamo, LCMFT, Topic Expert

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Carter

    August 23rd, 2017 at 1:59 PM

    For my family it has always been about sitting down after we have gotten our schedules and all working out a plan TOGETHER for how we can pitch in and make things easier on the others in the family.
    My brother drops off the younger kids in the morning, I do the afternoon pick up because he stays for football practice.
    we try to do as much as we can for our mom and dad because they both have jobs and work hard too.
    We have all tried to work on it as a family, because you know, that’s what tight families do for each other.

  • Jenn M

    August 24th, 2017 at 10:51 AM

    Both of mine are going into high school in a few days so needless to say this is a big year with big changes for all of us. I think that it will be fine and junior high has them pretty much prepared, I am just not sure how to make them understand that there is still a life/work balance that somehow has to be kept in the flurry of all of the new activity.

  • benika

    August 24th, 2017 at 2:30 PM

    So maybe this isn’t right but I have always loved school, had a great experience with school and believed that this played a large role in my own children liking school too.
    I never sugar coated things and told them that oh school was so easy, always fun. I have always been honest about the classes that came easily for me and the ones that made me have to study a little bit more. And I think that they came to appreciate and even emulate the fact that I had a very positive experience with school and they saw that they would like to have the very same thing.
    Not everyone was so fortunate and many have had terrible experiences with learning and academics and I think that how the parents feel in general about education is then reflected onto their children.

  • Abigail A

    August 25th, 2017 at 2:39 PM

    I love getting to go back to school shopping with my mom!
    It’s too hot for sweaters and jeans just yet, but it gives us some more time to spend together doing something totally different than just the old boring things around the house.
    I like the school supplies and all of that, knowing that I am starting a new year and getting excited about all of the things to come.

  • Sam

    August 27th, 2017 at 2:35 PM

    So much easier when your kids have a positive school experience
    When they don’t every morning just feels like you are sending them off to boot camp

  • Ricardo

    August 28th, 2017 at 3:16 PM

    All of my friends think that my wife and I crack the whip when it comes to bed time, but as a result our kids have always done a great job. Yes much of it I attribute to being on a schedule and sticking with it even when they beg to not to. I know that there will come a time when this is no longer going to happen, but hey, we savor it while we have it. And it sure does beat having the morning battles that many of the report to me!

  • o rourke

    August 29th, 2017 at 3:15 PM

    None of us like to stress too much over things, we are a pretty laid back household so I guess the back to school doesn’t effect us in the way that it can for some families. I think that for us it is better that way, not worrying about the things that we can’t control is generally the way to go, and although I know that there will come a time when that just can’t be helped, we try to play it as it goes. Just going with the flow and not crossing a bridge until we get there, that’s what works best for us.

  • Drop of Life

    September 10th, 2017 at 5:46 AM

    Through proper guidance of parents definitely there children will go to school and do there best in school.

  • Zoe

    May 2nd, 2020 at 4:39 AM

    Thank you for giving me the idea to let my child come with me as I pick their school supplies to give them a chance to pick things that they prefer. In my case, it’s not a back-to-school scenario, but we’re thinking of enrolling our daughter in a pre-school program in order to prepare her for an actual school environment. Although I know that she loves the color pink, it might still be better to let her have her preferences.

  • Olivia

    November 2nd, 2020 at 1:16 PM

    Great tips! Thanks! Preparing for school will help your child mature intellectually, socially, emotionally and psychologically for a new stage in life. This, in turn, will help him learn more successfully and lay the foundation for further growth.

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