Tips towards the successful launch of a new school year

By on September 11, 2013

If you visualize time off school during the summer months as a mountain, you may or may not be pleased to realize that you are more or less at the peak, and will soon be making the climb down the other side to another new school year. Depending on how productive your children are over the summer months, how much juggling you are doing between your schedule and theirs, how quickly they become bored and how much extra effort you are putting into entertaining them, this journey may feel like a quick sprint or a laborious descent with many obstacles along the way. Regardless, August is a time of preparation – both physically and psychologically. Although most students prefer to wait until closer to the beginning of September to stop denying that returning to school is not so far off, if you help your children ready themselves at a slow and steady pace, it will be easier to make the mental shift when Labour Day weekend hits. Here are some tips for preparing your children (and yourselves) during the month of August for back to school:

Four weeks before school begins:
•    Make sure that last year’s backpack has been unpacked, that notes and other paraphernalia have been sorted, thrown out or filed (do this with your child, if possible). Consider what’s still good enough to be recycled for next year and which supplies need to be replenished – make a list.
•    Wash or wipe the backpack, give away or throw out and if the latter, add that to the list of what needs to be purchased.
•    Catch up on medical or dental appointments that are more difficult to fit in during the school year.
•    Begin researching and sign up for extra curricular activities. If your child wants to attend with friends, talk to other parents, look into car pooling arrangements, consider how well balanced school and extra curricular activities will be.
Three weeks before school begins:
•    If your children have been separated from their school friends during the summer months by choice or because of attending different programs, this is a good time to encourage them to reconnect – preferably in person.
•    Gently reawaken your child’s brain by exposing him or her to academic worksheets. You can purchase these or print worksheets off the internet. Some students even benefit from meeting with tutors who can review subjects that were more difficult in his or her previous grade
•    How much reading has your child done over the summer so far? Go to the library or a bookstore to pick up a couple of books. Then begin reading them together out loud or encourage silent reading.
Two weeks before school begins:
•    Begin talking about and normalizing your child’s anxieties or apprehension about the new school year. Remind them that even teachers are nervous around this time of year.
•    Begin back to school shopping for supplies or clothing, if necessary
•    Encourage your child to place 14 sticky notes on his or her wall, numbered 1 to 14. Each day leading up to the beginning of school, remove the sticky note corresponding to the number of days remaining and throw away. This creates a visual reminder of the number of days remaining before school begins and helps them prepare for school by bringing closure to their summer holidays
•    If your child wants or need a back to school haircut, book this in advance as bookings may be scarce in the days leading up to the first day back at school
One week before school begins:
•    Go to the school and take a picture of your child outside. I took photographs of my daughters at the same spot outside their school every year so that I could compare changes in them from year to year. They sometimes resisted back then but love looking at them now
•    If your child is going to be walking or bussing to and from school, review directions and safety skills.
•    If your child has special needs that were not noted at the end of last school year, or needs special accommodations, school personnel are typically in the office during the week prior to school beginning, so this would be a good time to call or visit.
•    Begin earlier bed and waking times so that your child can reset his or her internal time clock
•    Help your child pack his or her backpack
•    Arrange a family meeting to review back to school guidelines such as use of electronics at school and at home, curfews, household and for older children, work responsibilities.
If you’ve followed these steps, and perhaps added your own, you’ll be all set days before school begins. Then relax with your family and enjoy the last few days before you’re back to the normal routine of challenging mornings!

About Sara Dimerman (aka HelpMeSara)

Sara Dimerman has been an individual, couple and family therapist for over twenty years. She is one of North America’s most trusted parenting and relationship experts and the author of three books – ‘Am I A Normal Parent?’, ‘Character Is the Key’ and a book for couples – ‘How can I be your Lover when I’m too Busy Being your Mother?’ Learn more or listen to advice from Sara and her colleagues by searching for ‘helpmesara’ podcasts on iTunes or by visiting www.helpmesara.com. Check out her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/saradimermanhelpmesara or follow Sara on Twitter @helpmesara.