Your Back-To-School Checklist For a Smooth Start

These 9 tips will ease the way for kids of all ages as they head back to school.

Returning to school, or starting school for the first time, can be a hectic and frustrating time of year. There’s so much to do and so many things to remember. Not to mention how the kids are feeling. But it doesn’t have to be a rushed and exhausting experience.

Try these nine tips for getting the 2019–20 school year off to a great start.

Photo by klimkin via Pixabay

Take a tour or orientation of a new school

Whether your little is starting school for the first time, or your older kid is moving on to middle or high school, or you’ve moved, a new school can be intimidating. You might not know anyone. You don’t know your way around the campus. You have new teachers. A new schedule.

Who wouldn’t be nervous?

A quick tour of the campus, or a more in-depth orientation, can help alleviate some of those concerns. By finding their classroom(s), the cafeteria, lockers, and other things they’ll need to locate, they’ll feel more prepared on the first day. It’s also a lot easier to locate those things when the halls aren’t packed with other kids who are all doing the same thing.

It also helps that you, the parent, are there with them. Your kid will feel more confident with you by their side. And it will benefit you when you come for class parties, to drop off items, or need to pick them up for one reason or another.

If you’re not sure when your little one’s school offers orientation or tours, call and ask. If they don’t have one scheduled, find out if you can do one on your own.

Pay attention for this to be by another name, too. Some schools may call it open house, meet the teacher, or something similar.

Get back on the school sleep schedule

Most of us let sleep schedules slide a bit during the summer. We figure the kids can sleep in. Or if they go to daycare or a babysitter, we assume they can take a nap or some quiet time. So they get to stay up a bit late and have some summer fun.

But as the break winds down, getting back on your usual school bedtime schedule is important. Don’t wait until the night before school starts. By then, your kid will be lying in bed, wide awake and probably complaining about not being tired yet.

Start at least a week before school starts. Two weeks is even better. Try moving bedtime back in small increments — say, 15 minutes a night until you’re back to the school-year bedtime. At the same time, start working on getting them up in the morning if you’ve been letting them sleep in.

If you have an older kid that you want to start using an alarm clock, now is the time to implement that as well.

Expert tip: If you have a kid who likes to lay in bed after the alarm goes off, make sure you teach them about the snooze button if you don’t want to have to go in and wake them up yourself.

Photo by ambroo via Pixabay

Sit down with littles and go over rules and new experiences

If you’ve got a little one starting school for the first time, this new experience can be overwhelming and uncomfortable for them. But you can ease some of the discomfort and overwhelm by going over some things before the first day of school.

Let’s start with lunch. It’s barely thought of — we prep their lunch, or give them lunch money, and figure that’s it. But if you send lunch, you may not realize that your little one can’t open string cheese until it comes home in the bag. Or you may never know they can’t open a carton of milk. Take some time to make some lunches, pack them up just as you would for school, and let your kid have lunch.

It might be hard for you to watch them struggle, but by doing this now, you’ll know what you need to help them learn to do or what you need to skip sending entirely (if they don’t have the skill and strength to open the string cheese, why waste it?). You’ll also want to go over the time restrictions and make sure you send a lunch they can reasonably finish in the 15–25 minutes they’ll have. Let them know if they don’t finish it all, that’s okay, too.

Go over classroom and school rules as much as you can. If some of the rules are very different from what they may have experienced at home (such as raising their hand to speak), explain what the rule means. You might even “play school” a few times to give them a chance to try to remember and follow the rules.

Go over school routes and transportation

Make sure your kiddo knows if they’re a car rider, walker, or bus rider — and what exactly that means. If they’re walking to school, walk the route with them a few times to make sure they know it in both directions. Help littler ones find landmarks that will help them identify turns to make, especially if streets in your area aren’t well marked.

If they will be riding the bus, go over what bus number they ride, and the route the bus will take. Show them their bus stop, identifying landmarks that will help them know it’s definitely their stop. Also tell them how many stops come before theirs so they can count and identify when to get off the bus.

What if there are no landmarks for the bus stop? Try creating one. You might paint a stick a bright color and stick it in the dirt or tie some colorful streamers around a tree or post. You just want to make sure that little ones, in particular, identify where to get off the bus.

Photo by nastya_gepp via Pixabay

Start prepping everything your kids will need ahead of time

Make lunches the night before — if you want to be really ambitious, make them for the week. Get school supplies put in backpacks. Label everything from backpacks to supplies themselves, unless the school has stipulated that supplies are to be shared.

Set out clothes to be worn the night before. Put shoes with clothes or by backpacks. Make sure toothbrushes and toothpaste, combs and brushes, and other hygiene items are within reach and full.

If the kids aren’t eating breakfast at school and you want to send them off with a hearty one, consider prepping it beforehand. Pre-cook pancakes or waffles, fry bacon or sausage, or bake a veggie frittata a day or two before. Then simply reheat the morning you want to use them. This can also be a great way to give kids a big breakfast every school day throughout the year. You can freeze most breakfast items and still reheat them pretty quickly.

Don’t leave yourself out of all this back-to-school prep, either. You’ve had the summer off from making sure kids get out the door to the bus stop or to school. You may have gotten more relaxed about things for yourself, too. Make sure whatever you need for work is prepped ahead of time: your own lunch, paperwork that needs to go back to the office, your car is filled with gas, and your clothes are laid out the night before.

Allow extra time for everything in the first week or two

The first week or two of school are the most hectic. While it may seem as if the school is disorganized, the simple fact is it’s a building filled with hundreds of people, all of whom have their own routines and obstacles to overcome to get to school. This can lead to running late, forgetting things, getting lost, and more.

Be patient for the first week or two. The bus might be late or miss a stop. The teacher might be late. You might drop your kid off on time but he still gets to class late. Other kids might be late and cause the bus or the class to be delayed.

It might be frustrating, which is understandable. But remember that it’s just the first week or so. After that, everyone will start to know where they need to be, what they need to have, and how long it takes for them to do what needs to be done. Things will get ironed out and start running more smoothly.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that a problem that crops up in that first week or two won’t be an ongoing problem. And if that’s the case, then you should certainly speak to someone. But wait until those initial days have passed so you can be certain it’s an ongoing problem and not just a kink that needs to be worked out.

Be ready for setbacks

Kids of all ages could have setbacks at the start of a new school year. What do I mean by setbacks?

A new kindergartener might experience some separation anxiety or suddenly not be able to read or write their name anymore, even though they’ve been doing it at home for you for months. Older kids might have lost some skills over the summer and not do as well in certain subjects.

You might also notice increased attitudes from older kids as the stress starts to build already. Kids who participate in more than one extra-curricular activity may insist they can’t handle it all.

Be ready for these possibilities and others. Don’t be surprised by them, and while you shouldn’t allow disrespect or disobedience, do allow your child to express themselves. If the expression is inappropriate (disrespect or disobedience), let them know that and give them suggestions for more appropriate ways of expressing themselves.

Most of all, be there for your child. Let them know you understand how they feel. Be clear that they can always come to you and you will do what you can to help them.

Start each week with some family time

Once school starts, family time can start to become scarce. Between the hours spent at school and work, extra-curricular activities, homework, and spending time with new friends, it can be hard for the family to spend quality time together.

Try implementing some weekly family time. Sunday nights are often perfect for this, as the day itself tends to be more relaxed and it’s easier to get the whole family together.

You might have a family movie night with family-friendly flicks and snacks. Maybe you prefer a game night. It might be something else that your family enjoys.

If you have smaller kids, you might consider sticking with a simple family movie night. One of the beneficial aspects of this is that it can be a way to settle down after an active weekend so they can be ready to head back into the school week.

Whatever you decide to do for your family night, and whatever night you decide to do it, make it consistent. Choose a night and stick with it, only canceling for special occasions or emergencies.

Photo by ambermb via Pixabay

Be your child’s advocate (but know the facts)

Whether your child is in kindergarten or high school, they need to know you have their back. Whether it’s an unreasonable teacher, a bully on the playground or in the halls or something else, your kiddo needs to know that you will support and help them in whatever happens.

At the same time, teachers need to be able to assert authority over our kids while they’re in the classroom. Sometimes our kids are in the wrong. We know this from their behavior at home. But sometimes when it comes to school, we want to believe the best of our kids.

Be your child’s advocate, but make sure you get all sides of the story. You may decide the other side isn’t being honest, or you may realize your kid isn’t. Or you might realize that your kid has misunderstood something. Whatever the case, you don’t want to be the parent that rips the teacher a new one only to find out they were wrong.

When you do determine that your kid has been wronged, don’t hesitate to go to bat for them. Ask for new teachers, new classrooms, or whatever needs to happen to make things right.

This school year can be smooth and easy with just a little effort. Work together with your kids to implement these tips and see what happens.

Wendy Miller

Written by

Freelance writer, meditation teacher and mom. I write about pregnancy & parenting, meditation, and self-care. I want you to thrive in every stage of life!

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