What steps should I take to prepare my child for the beginning of the school year?
The start of the school year can stir anxieties for both child and parent – particularly if your child is attending school for the first time. There are ways to quell your child’s fears and make sure he’s well-prepared, whether he’s a an eager kindergartener or a more seasoned scholar.
- Take a tour before your child starts at his new school, preferably when school is still in session. Look at the classroom he will likely be in, the bathrooms, playground, and activity rooms for music, art, and physical education. When you visit, focus on an activity, game, or toy that your child does not have at home, such as tempura paints or a sandbox, and make it something for him to look forward to on his first day.
- Get your child to open up about his expectations for school. Ask him if he feels excited, anxious, or a little bit of both. Talk with him about specific worries he has for the upcoming year.
- To keep him in the social loop before school starts, ask for a class list with telephone numbers over the summer. Arrange play dates with other children who will be in your child’s class. Invite another child who’s in the same class to play with your child so he will have at least one buddy on his first day.
- Explain the upcoming school routine in detail. Go over your child’s new schedule, including when he needs to wake up, eat breakfast, and be ready to leave the house. Have a couple practice runs beforehand.
- Make the transition from summer to school bedtimes by getting your kids to bed fifteen minutes earlier each night about two weeks before school, with no more staying up until ten or eleven o’clock at night.
- With your child’s help, brainstorm and come up with a list of his favorite lunches and snacks to pack for school in order to make both grocery shopping and packing his lunch easier.
- Make sure your child feels comfortable with how he will be getting to school. Drive the bus route with him, walk with him to school the first week, or find an older child to walk with him. Review safety precautions regarding traffic and strangers.
The Day Before
- Bake your child a batch of his favorite cookies as something to look forward to after the stress of the first day.
- Pack something familiar in your child’s backpack to make him feel more comfortable, along with something new to make him feel special.
- Make a big family sit-down dinner the night before or after the first day. Talk through some of the highlights of the summer and state one goal for the coming school year.
- Plan with neighborhood parents to meet at the bus stop the first day for breakfast. Let your child pick out his favorite outfit to wear.
- Pack all the items you and your child need for work, school, or day care and load the car. If that’s not feasible, place coats, bags, and lunch boxes by the door.
- Designate a shelf, basket, or area for each family member to place what needs to go out the door in the morning.
- Pack lunches and refrigerate sandwiches—sometimes this is easiest to do while making dinner. Put your car keys with the sandwiches if it helps your remember to add the sandwiches to lunchboxes in the morning, or put a note on the lunchbox to remind you.
- Check the weather report to plan clothing and outerwear for the next day.
- Decide what to serve for breakfast to avoid early morning debates. Some hot items, like pancakes, French toast, and bacon can be made ahead of time and reheated.
- Keep child-size cups of milk and juice in the fridge so your child can help herself.
First Day of School
- Start the school year off right by making the first day something to celebrate. Have a big breakfast, decorate the kitchen, serve a favorite meal, and hand out new lunchboxes or school supplies.
- Take pictures, and pick one spot to do this each year, such as the front porch or steps.
- The morning arrival time at school is critical, and most kids like a few leisurely moments to get settled in. If you drive your child or if he walks to school, plan to get there at least ten minutes before school starts.
About the Author:
A dynamic national speaker, consultant, corporate spokesperson, and writer, Stacy DeBroff is President and founder of Mom Central, Inc., a company devoted to providing pragmatic tips and advice to strengthen busy families and enhance the home environment. Stacy has written several best-selling books on household and family organization including The Mom Book Goes to School; The Mom Book: 4,278 Tips for Moms; Sign Me Up! The Parent's Complete Guide to Sports, Activities, and Extracurriculars; and Mom Central: The Ultimate Family Organizer.