Parents can smooth the way back to school by helping students know what to expect in advance and being organized and orderly before school starts.
Going back to school creates a powerful mix of emotions. For ebullient extroverts and cautious introverts alike, from new students to those who did — and those who didn’t — have a happy year last year, the youngest to the oldest, the bottom line is: will I know what to do to fit in and be successful? Ultimately, will I be safe?
So, get the lay of the land ahead of time
Stop by the school and take a look around. For returning students, say hello in the office. For new students to the school, meet the school secretary, locate the car and bus drop-off and pick-up locations, and discuss plans for lunches. If the class schedule is available, map out general locations and transitions. Look at announcement boards to get a feel for the place. Boost familiarity and confidence with a brief and fun visit.
Supplies and packs
Find the school/teacher supply lists and take a fun trip to the store together. Put any general items (e.g. boxes of tissue, pencils, and looseleaf paper for teachers) in one bag. For elementary age students and older, set up a useful but basic binder or “trapper.” Keep this simple. Students don’t need an entire ream of paper, 12 pencils and 4 pens in the binder (seen it!) And keep the backpack size manageable.
Studies show that carrying large, heavy backpacks creates musculoskeletal problems for children and youth even when worn properly with arms through both straps and the pack centered properly on the back (have never seen that.) Instead, select a small backpack for a small child, and a medium backpack for everyone else. If your school still uses large, heavy textbooks, buy a used set online for home and sell them to another family next year.
It grieves me to say, clothes really matter. Really. If your child likes to make an alternative statement, affirm all reasonable and dress-code-conscious choices. Otherwise, find something affordable that fits in with the crowd. Kids pick each other apart about every single detail even in schools with restrictive dress codes.
In a well meaning effort to build experiences, create positive peer groups, and leave high school with a standout resume, parents can run their kids ragged. Most children and youth need about twice as much sleep as they get, at set times each day, and need additional time to enjoy creativity, relaxation, imagination … quiet, even. Create a routine that supports some downtime, stress-free family time, and predictable sleep/wake hours each day, and then enjoy the rewards of improved communication, focus, empathy, and grades.
Eating and sleeping
In that same category, make meals count, especially breakfast. A big bowl of sweetened cereal, or syrupy French toast, or pancakes will put your child right to sleep during morning math. Instead, serve protein. –Toast with nut butter, scrambled eggs and cheese.
A smart breakfast is still possible for a child doesn’t who doesn’t like eggs. Does your child like baked potatoes? Serve for breakfast with shredded cheese or cottage cheese. Serve a breakfast burrito. Chicken strips left over from the night before? Great! Vegan household? No problem. The concept is still easy and satisfying.
Find ways to offer a nutritious protein-centered breakfast at home; and lunches and suppers free of heavy preservatives, fats, and food colors (that is, all processed food.) Your entire family will have better brainpower, attention, and immunity to the onslaught of viruses that starts on Day One of the new school year.
Too much screen time? You know what to do, especially half an hour before bed.
Our grandmothers and mothers said it, and it will always be true. Accentuate the positive. Be grateful. Count your blessings ~ aloud with each other. Affirm accomplishments and improvement, not just A’s and wins. Look for the good. Eliminate negative self talk. Cheer each other on. You’re in it together, so be The Team for one another.
Have a good year!