7 Ways to Prep Your Child (and Yourself) for School

I'm a firm believer that summer vacation is about six weeks too long, but that said, HOW is it even possible we're heading into the home stretch of summer? Some kids have already started, and pretty much everyone is going back in the next couple of weeks. And with that comes the excitement and anxieties of a new school year. But with some planning and creativity, you can make those first few weeks of school a smooth transition for all of you.

1) Get back on a school schedule. Most families find themselves relaxing their hard and fast bedtimes during the summer ... it stays light later and often we don't have to get anywhere quite so early, so we enjoy every minute of after-dinner lingering and slow, relaxed mornings. But enforcing an early bedtime and wake-up the night or two before school starts isn't going to work.

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You need to gradually move bedtime and wake-up a few minutes earlier, starting, well, now. And if you come from the kind of family where you suddenly realize it's lunchtime and you're all still in your PJs, start moving back to a more structured morning routine, too.

2) Familiarize yourself, and them, with the school. If your kids are starting a new school and will be walking or dropped off by you, do the commute a few times, preferably at about the time of day you'll be getting to school. It will lessen everyone's anxiety to know exactly how to get yourselves there on time. See if you can play on the playground or even walk into the building; if you can, find your child's classroom, where the bathrooms are, where they gather in the morning before class, etc. The more familiar they are, the less scary walking into that big strange building will be on their first day.

3) Let them pick some of their back-to-school gear. Glue sticks and pencil cases seem a ton more exciting when they've picked them out themselves. Let them load up their backpack before the first day as well, and make sure they don't use any of their supplies because they're "special for school." If they'll be bringing lunch, take them shopping with you and choose some items together.

4) Give them a "mental movie" to deal with first-day jitters. Sit down with your child and discuss what will happen on their first day, preferably more than once. Start with the very first thing they'll do all the way through to the last bell, and emphasize at the end that you (or another adult they have a bond with) will be there to pick them up. For example, "You'll wake up at seven-zero-zero on your clock, then you'll get dressed in your new outfit and shoes, then you'll have breakfast. Then Daddy and I will take you to school; you'll sit with your classmates and Mrs. Brown will introduce you to them. Then you'll go to your classroom and sit at your desk ..." If you've ever used positive visualization to get yourself through an interview or athletic event, it's the same idea.

5) Tackle separation anxiety (yours and theirs). A little secret of parenthood I never knew until I experienced it is that first days can be as traumatic for parents as they are for kids -- maybe even more. Every mom I know fought tears sending their child off to kindergarten. Remind your child and yourself that your love is so big it's always with them no matter where they go, and that you'll be right there to hear all about their day when they come home. And make sure to be there a few minutes ahead of pick-up the first couple of weeks. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn helped my daughter and me with the longer separations kindergarten brought. We read it at night and did the "kissing hand" ritual in the morning. If you can get through it without crying, you're a tougher mom than me!

6) Institute quiet time now. Your kids have probably been running around all summer long and following their bliss as far as their activities go, but school requires a lot more routine. Setting TV-off quiet times a few times a day where they read or do puzzles can help them get into the mode of sitting still and listening.

7) Keep your own attitude positive. For some of us, that will not be a chore (ahem). But I know a lot of parents who go on and on about how they hate the start of school and it will be SUCH a bummer to have their kids gone all day ... and then guess what? Their kids freak out and have crappy attitudes about school. Remaining positive about how much fun school will be, how nice it will be to see their friends, and all the great stuff they'll learn this year sets a good example for your kids.

How are you preparing for the new school year?

 

Image via Pink Sherbet Photography/Flickr

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