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The first few days of school can be overwhelming and intimidating, even for returning students. While enjoying lazy days and loose schedules is one of the best parts of summer, there are small things we parents can be doing as the summer winds down to ready our kids for returning to the classroom. We asked some current and former teachers for their recommendations to help us set our students up for success for the new school year. Here are some great practical tips from teachers for getting your kids ready to go back to school:
1. Adjust sleep schedules.
Start shifting sleep schedules at least a week before school starts so the early wake-up time isn’t so jarring. For the first week of school, try to plan for earlier-than-usual bedtimes to allow your kids to acclimate to their school schedule.
2. More meals, fewer snacks.
Start adjusting eating schedules too. Many kids (mine included) are on more of “graze all day” eating plan in the summer. Some teachers find that kids are hungry the first few days, as they are not used to eating only at one or two designated times in the school day. As all parents know far too well, a hungry kid can easily be an irritable or overly emotional kid, so we set our kids up for more success if we cut the snacking cord the last week or two of summer.
3. Test drive your kids’ school lunches.
Look, I love school lunch containers more than is probably healthy, so I understand (all too well) the excitement over all the different shapes and features of containers. But if your kid cannot open your fantastic container, he/she will lose precious lunchtime as he/she waits for a lunchroom helper to assist. Make sure your kids can open containers, yogurt tubes, juice boxes, and whatever you might be sending in their lunch.
4. Teach your kids to tie their shoes.
There are many books, toys, and online tutorials to teach your kids how to tie their shoes. Start early and give your kids time to practice in a relaxed environment. If shoe-tying is not happening and velcro shoes are an option, go with velcro. If shoe-tying is not happening and a school uniform code dictates that laces must be worn, familiarize yourself with the double knot.
5. Talk about the first day of school.
This is especially applicable for first-time students or students heading to a new school. Let them know what to expect throughout the school day. Discuss where you will drop them off and where you will pick them up. If your child struggles with goodbyes, talk about how you will drop them off. Most teachers strongly prefer a firm, quick, loving goodbye, as a lingering parting tends to make both the kids and parents emotional. Know that teachers are pros and are well adapted to quickly transition your kid into the classroom and distract them with an activity.
6. Go to Meet the Teacher Night.
If your school has a Meet the Teacher night, make every effort to attend. Yes, it may be chaotic. Yes, you may make have to make awkward small talk with other parents you do not particularly enjoy. But give your kids a chance to see their classroom, familiarize themselves with new faces, and at least say hello to their new teacher. Teachers work really, REALLY hard to make Meet the Teacher night organized and pleasant. Fill out ALL the paperwork that you are given promptly to make your teacher’s life much easier.
7. Dust off pencils and paper.
If your child has taken a break from writing with pencils and pens, start having them get their penmanship skills back on point. Hand strength and pencil grip can weaken over the summer, leading to tired hands—which can lead to cranky kids—the first few days back at school. Having your kids write in a journal, color in a coloring book, work on zentangles, and write letters to friends are all great ways to re-strenghten little hands in advance of the school year.
8. Practice being a good person.
I loved this quote from a friend regarding back-to-school preparation (posted with her permission): “I’d like parents to teach kids to be nice. To be polite. To look out for kids who may be having a hard time making friends. Teach kids HOW to make friends and how to be a good friend. Teach kids the proper way to address a teacher. And please teach kids what is acceptable behavior in the classroom! Too much emphasis on school supplies, not enough on behavioral/social preparation.” Amen.
9. Be prepared for an adjustment period…for everyone.
The first few days may be fantastic. Or they may be awful. Or somewhere in between. That is OK and quite normal. I personally find that the first and second days are quite exciting, but by days three, four, and five, our whole family is dragging and patience runs thin. When I go into the first week knowing that I will likely be (ahem, loudly) asking why shoes are not on yet and teeth are not brushed and “where the heck is your belt?” I’m able to extend a little more grace to both my kids and myself, and that is always a good thing.
This post was originally published in August of 2016. It has been updated to correct links and outdated information.