Whether their summer was jam-packed with activities or filled with complaints about
being bored with nothing to do, kids often have a tough time making the back-to-school
Battling the Butterflies
As with any new or unsettling situation — like starting school for the first
time or entering a new grade or new school — give kids time to adjust. Remind
them that everyone feels a little nervous about the first day of school and that it
will be an everyday routine in no time.
Focus on the positive things about going back to school, such as hanging out with
old friends, meeting new classmates, buying cool school supplies, getting involved
in sports and other activities, and showing off new clothes (or accessories if your
child wears a uniform).
It's also important to talk to kids about what worries them and offer support:
Are they afraid they won't make new friends or get along with their teachers? Is the
thought of schoolwork stressing them out? Are they worried about the bully
from last year?
Consider adjusting your own schedule to make the transition smoother. If possible,
it's especially beneficial for parents to be home at the end of the school day for
the first week. But many working moms and dads don't have that flexibility. Instead,
try to arrange your evenings so you can give kids as much time as they need, especially
during those first few days.
If your child is going to a new school, try to arrange a visit before school starts.
And ask if your child can be paired up with another student, or "buddy," and if you
can be connected with other new parents. This will help both of you with the adjustment
to new people and surroundings. Some schools give kids maps to use until things become
To help ease back-to-school butterflies, try to ease kids into a consistent school-night
routine a few weeks before school starts. Also make sure that they:
get enough sleep (set a
reasonable bedtime so that they'll be rested and ready to learn in the morning)
eat a healthy breakfast
(they're more alert and do better in school if they eat a good breakfast every day)
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.
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
It's normal to be anxious in any new situation. But a few kids develop real physical
symptoms, such as headaches
or stomachaches, at 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.
Parents themselves can be a little nervous about the first day of school, especially
if they're seeing their little one off for the first time or if their child is going
to a new school.
To help make going to school a little easier on everyone, here's a handy checklist:
What to wear, bring, and eat:
Does the school have a dress code? Are there certain things students can't wear?
Will kids need a change of clothes for PE or art class?
Do your kids have a safe backpack
that's lightweight, with two wide, padded shoulder straps, a waist belt, a padded
back, and multiple compartments?
Do kids know not to overload their backpacks and to stow them safely at home and
Will your kids buy lunch at school or bring it from home? If they buy a school
lunch, how much will it cost per day or per week? Do you have a weekly or monthly
menu of what will be served? Is there an account number that they need to remember?
Have you stocked up on all of the necessary school supplies? (Letting kids pick
out a new lunchbox and a set of pens, pencils, binders, etc., helps get them geared
up for going back to school.)
Have you filled out any forms that the school has sent home, such as emergency
contact and health information forms?
Do the school nurse and teachers know about any medical conditions your child
has, such as food allergies, asthma, diabetes, or other conditions that may need to
be managed during the school day?
Have you made arrangements with the school nurse to give any medicines your child
Do the teachers know about any conditions that may affect how your child learns?
For example, kids with attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should be seated in the front of the room,
and a child with vision problems should sit near the board.
Transportation and safety:
Do you know what time school starts and how your kids will get there?
If they're riding the bus, do you know where the bus stop is and what time they'll
be picked up and dropped off?
Do you know where the school's designated drop-off and pick-up area is?
Are there any regulations on bicycles
or other vehicles, such as scooters?
Have you gone over traffic safety information, stressing the importance of crossing
at the crosswalk (never between parked cars or in front of the school bus), waiting
for the bus to stop before approaching it, and understanding traffic signals and signs?
If your child walks or bikes to school, have you mapped out a safe route? Does
your child understand that it's never OK to accept
rides, candy, or any other type of invitation from strangers?
What About After School?
Figuring out where kids will go after school can be a challenge, especially if
both parents work. Depending on a child's age and maturity, you may need to arrange
for after-school transportation and care.
It's important for younger kids and preteens to have some sort of supervision from
a responsible adult. If you can't be there as soon as school's out, ask a reliable,
responsible relative, friend, or neighbor to help out. If they're to be picked up
after school, make sure your kids know where to meet you or another caregiver.
Although it might seem like kids who are approaching adolescence are becoming mature
enough to start watching themselves after school, even kids as old as 11 or 12 may
not be ready to be left alone.
If your kids or teens are home
alone in the afternoons, it's important to establish clear rules:
Set a time when they're expected to arrive home from school.
Have them check in with you or a neighbor as soon as they get home.
Specify who, if anyone at all, is allowed in your home when you're not there.
Make sure they know to never open the door for strangers.
To ensure that kids are safe and entertained after school, look into after-school
programs. Some are run by private businesses, others are organized by the schools
themselves, places of worship, police athletic leagues, YMCAs, community and youth
centers, and parks and recreation departments.
Getting involved in after-school activities:
offers kids a productive alternative to watching TV
or playing video games
provides some adult supervision when parents can't be around after school
helps develop kids' interests and talents
introduces kids to new people and helps them develop their social skills
gives kids a feeling of involvement
keeps kids out of trouble
Be sure to look into the child-staff ratio at any after-school program (in other
words, make sure that there are enough adults per child) and that the facilities are
safe, indoors and out. And kids should know when and who will pick them up when school
lets out and when the after-school program ends.
Also, make sure after-school commitments allow kids enough time to complete school
assignments. Keep an eye on their schedules to make sure there's enough time for both
schoolwork and home life.
Love it or hate it, homework is a very important part of school. To help kids get
back into the scholastic swing of things:
Make sure there's a quiet place that's free of distractions to do homework.
Don't let kids watch TV when doing homework or studying. Set rules for when homework
and studying need to be done, and when the TV can be turned on and should be turned
off. The less TV, the better, especially on school nights.
If your kids are involved in social media, be sure to limit the time spent on
these activities during homework time.
Keep text messaging to a minimum to avoid frequent interruptions.
Never do their homework or projects yourself. Instead, make it clear that you're
always available to help or answer any questions, as needed.
Review homework assignments nightly, not necessarily to check up, but to make
sure they understand everything.
Encourage kids to:
develop good work habits from the get-go, like taking notes, writing down assignments,
and turning in homework on time
take their time with schoolwork
ask the teacher if they don't understand something
To ensure kids get the most out of school, maintain an open channel of communication
with the teachers by e-mailing or talking with them throughout the school year to
discuss your kids' academic strengths as well as weaknesses.
Most of all, whether it's the first day of school or the last, make sure your kids
know you're there to listen to their feelings and concerns, and that you don't expect
perfection — only that they try their best.