Back to School — The Smart Way

Back to School — The Smart Way

Unfortunately, the lazy days of summer are slowly coming to an end. Sleeping late, lounging around the house, sitting by the pool and impromptu play dates will soon be a fond memory. But these changes can cause stress for both children and parents as the transition to back to school begins. Before you pack away the flip flops and squeeze in one more trip to the beach, consider these great tips to make the back-to-school experience easier for everyone.

Back-to-school shopping

Before you hit the stores for supplies, wardrobes and must-have accessories, think about these money-saving and convenient tips.

  • Back-to-school sales seem to begin before the school year ends, but the good news is that they tend to last all summer! The big box stores have everything your student will need, but consider retailers such as pharmacies and office supply stores too.
  • Hold a swap party with friends and neighbors — last year's barely used supplies or lightly worn clothes in your closet may be brand new and exciting for someone else.
  • Check out consignment shops — sell last year's stuff; get a bargain on this year's stuff.
  • Stock up on basics for the whole year — paper, pencils, glue sticks, folders, etc. Grab extras and stash them away for later when supplies run low or items need refreshing.

Establish the routine

A smooth transition from the carefree days of summer to the regimented school routine begins with a plan. Here are some ideas to start the new year on the right foot.

  • Begin a bedtime routine at least a week before school starts. Even if the kids aren't falling asleep earlier, they can be in bed reading a book or doing another quiet activity at the same time every night.
  • Use an alarm to help your kids wake up. Beginning the week before school, set the alarm for an hour later than it will go off when school starts. Each day (or every other day), set it for 10-15 minutes earlier until the kids get up at their regular school time.
  • Make a list of tasks that need to be done every day. Be sure to involve all parties — young children and spouses too — when creating the list. Then break it down into individual tasks for each person and practice this new routine a few days before school starts.
  • Prepare as much as possible the night before to avoid unexpected changes to the morning routine. Make lunches and snacks as you clean up after dinner. Pack backpacks once homework has been completed. Place instruments or sports equipment that have to go to school with the backpack. Have the kids pick out their clothes before they go to bed.
  • Stay organized. Use a clipboard or designated space to keep all school related information together: announcements about upcoming events, permission slips, athletic forms, etc. You decide if you need one for each family member or if you categorize by type of information. The important thing is that the info is easy to retrieve quickly.

Ease the stress

Consider the two big changes kids face at the start of a new school year: a more rigid routine and new environmental factors (new classroom, teacher, friends, etc.). Children don't always know how to articulate their stress and uncertainty, but you can help them cope better by:  

  • Describing what will be different about school this year. Consider the changes they may be experiencing: new teacher, classroom, lessons and routines. They may also have a change that involves transportation — riding the bus, carpooling, walking. Be sure to provide opportunities for children to ask question and point out the fun and exciting aspects of the new year.
  • Talk about the new routine in detail. "We'll wake up at 6:30, have breakfast by 7:00 and be out the door by 7:30. We'll pick up Jenny and I'll drop you both off at school by 7:45. You'll walk to your classroom..." This will help children picture the routine before they are expected to follow it and can help to prompt them to ask questions.

With some advance planning, thoughtful communication and a little extra patience, the transition from summer to the school year routine can be peaceful for the whole family. And really, doesn't everyone crave a little routine after so much relaxation?


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