By Connie Masullo
I don’t know about you but when I see the back to school supplies show up in the grocery store, I can feel my own anxiety rise! How can summer be over already? After a summer of sun, fun and hopefully a lighter schedule, how do we transition back to getting up early every morning, packing lunches and worst of all HOMEWORK! Even though it will be nice not to have entertain the kids all day this anxiety-prone mom is dreading the return of schedules and stress.
If only we could learn to transfer those relaxing moments summer brings—the joy of teaching your child how to swim, the pleasure of devouring ice cream cones together on the porch, or the peacefulness of taking walks on the beach—and experience them all year long. Sadly, those moments seem to grow scarce once the school bus reappears.
This year, I’ve vowed, will be different. Instead of crouching in our beach chairs in a state of panic, I’m taking steps now to make my family’s transition to the school year as smooth as a piña colada. I encourage you to join me. If you are like me and are facing the month of September with more than just a little trepidation, here are some tips that will help you!
Establish a reasonable bedtime so that they’ll be well-rested in the morning
When your kids are used to running around outside until dark each night, shifting to the early morning school bus rush can be a real shock to the system.To ease the transition, about a week before the first day of school, start their bedtime routine about 10 minutes earlier each night and wake them up 10 minutes earlier each morning, every day, until they’re back on track. And Mom and Dad: don’t forget to readjust your bedtime schedules too!
Eat a healthy breakfast
If your family is like mine, your household inventory of potato chips and cookies skyrockets during the summer. The arrival of fall is a perfect time to teach your kids that family-focused healthy eating can be fun too. “While the kids may be used to having ice cream every night in the summer, start swapping out some nights for fruit Popsicles, frozen yogurt, or baked fruit sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar,” says Rania Batanyeh, a San Francisco-based nutritionist and wellness coach. “And be prepared with healthy snacks and meals when thinre facing the month of September with more than just a little trepidation, here are some tips that will help you!gs get hectic, such as in the morning before school, when kids come home from school, and before dinner.”
Use a wall calendar or personal planner to record when assignments are due, tests will be given, extracurricular practices and rehearsals will be held, etc. Have them organize and set out what they need the night before (homework and books should be put in their backpacks by the door and clothes should be laid out in their bedrooms) Also, write down the need-to-know info to help them remember details such as their locker combination, what time classes and lunch start and end, their homeroom and classroom numbers, teachers’ and/or bus drivers’ names, etc.
Although it’s normal to be anxious in any new situation, a few kids develop real physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches, associated with the start of school. If you’re concerned that your child’s worries go beyond the normal back-to-school jitters, speak with your child’s doctor, teacher, or school counselor. If your child is extra anxious here are a few possible tips just for them!
Meet the new teacher.
For kids, one of the biggest back-to-school fears is “Will I like my new teacher?” Breaking the ice early on is one of the best ways to calm everyone’s fears. Take advantage of your school’s open house or back-to-school night. Some teachers welcome phone calls or e-mails — another great opportunity to get to know each other before the year begins.
If personal contact with the teacher isn’t possible, try locating the teacher’s picture on a school website or in a yearbook, so your child can put a name with a face. If your child’s teacher sends a welcome letter, be sure to read the letter together.
Tour the school.
If your school hosts an open house, be sure to go. Familiarizing your child with her environment will help her avoid a nervous stomach on the first day. Together you can meet her teacher, find her desk, or explore the playground. With an older child, you might ask him to give you a tour of the school. This will help refresh his memory and yours.
Connect with friends.
A familiar friend can make all the difference when heading back to school. You might try calling parents from last year’s class and finding out which children are in your child’s class this year. Refresh these relationships before school starts by scheduling a play date or a school carpool.
Obtain the class supply list and take a special shopping trip with your child. Having the right tools will help him feel prepared. While keeping basic needs in mind, allow for a couple of splurges like a cool notebook or a favorite-colored pen. These simple pleasures make going back to school a lot more fun.
School supply lists also provide great insight into the schoolwork ahead. Get your child excited about upcoming projects by explaining how new supplies might be used. Let him practice using supplies that he’s not used before — such as colored pencils or a protractor — so he will be comfortable using them in class.
Avoid last-minute drilling.
While it is important to support learning throughout the summer, don’t spend the last weeks of summer vacation reviewing last year’s curriculum. All kids need some down time before the rigors of school begin. For some kids, last-minute drills can heighten anxiety, reminding them of what they’ve forgotten instead of what they remember.
Ease into the routine.
Switching from a summer to a school schedule can be stressful to everyone in the household. Avoid first-day-of-school mayhem by practicing your routine a few days in advance. Set the alarm clock, go through your morning rituals, and get in the car or to the bus stop on time. Routines help children feel comfortable, and establishing a solid school routine will make the first day of school go much smoother.
Manage your own anxiety.
Keep in mind if you are nervous, they will be nervous. Have an upbeat plan to go back to school and your child will pick on your positive energy.