It’s a bittersweet time of year.
While some parents can’t believe the lazy, carefree days of summer are coming to an end, others are literally counting the days until the day that first school bell rings.
Either way, back-to-school time is going to be here before we know it.
Making a smooth transition from several months of carefree, summer fun to structured classroom days can be a challenge for some families.
And whether you have seasoned students returning to school this year, or new, younger children just beginning their educational adventure, it’s a good idea to start planning now for that big, first day.
Julie Reynolds, LPC, School Counselor at Washington Mill Elementary School (WMES) said it’s important to talk in advance to your children about what to expect during the upcoming school year, especially focusing on the positive aspects of starting school again.
“Talk to them and find out what they are excited about, what they are looking forward to, listening for any fears and anxieties that you may want to ease,” said Reynolds. “It’s important to focus on things they liked about school in previous years.”
Reynolds added that it’s also a smart idea to get the lay of the land before the first day of school.
“Try to attend any back-to-school activities or open house events. It’s important for kids to find out who their teachers are in advance, and see their new classrooms, if possible…it will help them feel much more comfortable when school officially starts.”
Another important topic to discuss with your kids involves transportation and child-care arrangements for the school year. Be sure to review the basic rules with your children before the first day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Whether your children ride the school bus, carpool, ride their bikes or walk to and from school, it’s important to make sure each family has their own game plan. Be sure to discuss tips like not talking to strangers, waiting for the bus to stop before approaching it, always wearing a bike helmet and walking to school on a safe, common route.
“If feasible, I would suggest reviewing as much of the routine going to and from school as possible with your kids before the first day,” Reynolds said, noting that the buddy system works well for those who walk or take the bus. “Laying out the foundation in advance will help make the transition much easier for kids during that first week of school.”
Here are some additional tips for a smooth start to the school year:
- Go over school supply lists to make sure your child has everything he or she needs.
- At least a week before school begins, start setting alarm clocks. Gradually roll back bedtimes and wake-up times to ease kids into the new school year schedule.
- Stock up on provisions, such as snack and lunch supplies, new shoes and backpacks or lunch boxes.
- Be sure that your child’s school has current contact information, in the event of an emergency. Prior to the first day, be sure to submit up-to-date mobile numbers, work phone numbers and email addresses for everyone listed on your emergency list.
- Familiarize yourself with bus routes, and if you have a returning student, make sure the bus route hasn’t changed, as well as what time you can expect it to arrive. Confirm carpool arrangements.
- Don’t forget to keep on top of required vaccinations, and if necessary, squeeze in an appointment with your child’s doctor before the first day of school. Some schools will not allow students to stay, even on the first day, if their vaccinations are not up to date.
- Encourage (or nag!) your child to finish his or her summer reading assignments.
- Talk about academic expectations. Discuss the fun things your child will be learning during the upcoming school year.