We wait all year for summer—our annual celebration of bare feet, beach outings, barbecues, and bathing suits—but no matter what, it always seems like it’s just too short. Making things worse is the fact that the better part of August—which should occupy prime summer real estate on our calendars—is spent preparing for summer to end! City pools are drained and locked. Summer camps shutter their cabins. The long, languorous, lightning-bug-filled days give way to frantic back-to-school preparations and end-of-summer closeouts.
Ready or Not, Here Comes School
And waiting in the wings, creeping closer with each passing day, is that starred date on our calendars. THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. Sure, we all know this milestone is really something to be celebrated—it’s an exciting new beginning for our kids that brings with it the promise of learning and growth, the opportunity to renew old friendships and form new ones, and perhaps best of all, a return to a predictable schedule. But getting there is the tricky part. As much as we look forward to the routine and consistency of the school year, there’s no shortage of chaos as we scramble to get ready for it.
As the lazy days of summer wane, it’s a struggle for everyone to get back on a tightly regulated schedule. Kids feel anxiety about the unknown elements of beginning a new grade. Parents rush to equip their children with school supplies and clothes or uniforms while preparing to oversee homework, enforce bedtimes, and orchestrate morning routines. Then there are the endless details to work out regarding teacher meetings, practices and rehearsals, games and performances, tests and school rules. Overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. Here are a few simple tips to help everyone cope gracefully with the change.
1. Ease Into It
Don’t wait until the day before school starts to start altering schedules and setting expectations. Visit the school before it opens. Even if the bus isn’t yet running and the carpool isn’t organized, it’s super helpful to do a dry run of drop-off to the extent possible.
Try your very best to go with your child to any “back to school” event that the school offers. Meet the teacher, see the classroom, find the bathroom and lunchroom and other essential places. If you’re new to the school, ask for a list of classmates and set up some playdates before school starts, to ensure that your child is greeted by some familiar faces on that first day.
A couple of weeks before school begins, start shifting sleep schedules as needed. Gradually move bedtime and wakeup time forward. Small children’s back-to-school jitters and fears often show up at night, so implement a soothing musical routine to make bedtime easier. Here are a few sweet tunes you might try.
2. Take Care of the Administrative Stuff
Whether your child is entering preschool or kindergarten, certain documentation is almost universally required, so be prepared to present it. You’ll want to make sure you have access to your child’s immunization records, and can provide an up-to-date list of all medicines your child takes, written details about any allergies he or she has, and a list of correct numbers for emergency contacts. Requirements vary by state and school, so you’ll want to check in with your child’s school to be sure you have everything you need. Here’s a helpful general checklist to get you started.
3. Plan Out Your Mornings and Evenings
Rushed, hectic mornings can be avoided with just a bit of planning. Talk with your child to figure out how everyone’s bathroom, eating, and dressing schedules will line up. If your child will take his or her lunch, make lists of preferred menu options and add them to your grocery list. Decide who will be in charge of packing lunches (children should help!), when that will happen, and where to put lunches so they won’t be left behind. Also plan where backpacks, coats, gym clothes, and other supplies will be stored so no one has to hunt for them at the last minute. Perhaps most important of all, commit to giving your child a healthy breakfast. Need some ideas for what to make? Here are some quick and creative options.
To make evenings go more smoothly, plan in advance when and where homework will be done. Set limits on screen time and television viewing. As much as possible, insist on eating together as a family to talk about the day’s events and plan for another good start tomorrow. Build a soothing bedtime ritual and stick to it.
Above All, Stay Calm!
Sure, it’s easier said than done, but try to stay cool in the midst of the hustle and bustle—your child takes his or her cues from you, and if you’re calm about this imminent transition, he or she is more likely to be as well. It also helps to remember that all of this preparation and stress is in service of one of the greatest gifts you can give your child—a quality education. So take a deep breath and adapt an “attitude of gratitude”—it helps (trust us!). Before you know it, you and your child will be comfortably adjusted and settled into your new routines…until next summer.
Before we go, here’s one more item to add to your end-of-summer to-do list (don’t worry—this one’s easy!): schedule your fall Kindermusik classes. Giving your child the opportunity to let loose with some music, movement, and fun is a great way to ease stress and manage tough transitions.