August 1 means it’s time for parents and children to start thinking about going back to school. While it’s a time that brings mixed emotions of excitement for some and perhaps fear for others, one thing is for sure: being prepared makes going back to school a lot easier.
Mary Wong, president of the Office Depot Foundation, whose National Backpack Program is now in its 17th year and has donated more than 4 million backpacks to children around the world, offers these tips to make a smooth transition:
- Start getting back into the routine. Summer is filled with mornings of sleeping in, hanging by the pool and days of soaking up the sun. Kids enjoy the fun of summer and how it gives them the freedom to roam. It is very difficult for kids to pivot on their rhythm so quickly. They do better if eased into a change. Start to assimilate the school routine back into their lives slowly but surely. It will be easier for you all to wake up early when the first day arrives.
- Encourage learning as school approaches. Hopefully, you have been encouraging your kids to continue learning over the summer. Either way, consider a short refresher course before school starts, or look for books or online learning aids to help your children feel more confident for the first day of school. In addition, help your children fall in love with learning and teach them to investigate their own interests. These days, there is a wealth of resources for them to utilize in their search for information. Always keep it fun, and sneak in some math and reading if you can.
- Get a checkup at the doctor. Right before the school year starts is a good time to check in with your family physician. Be sure to check with the school about the mandatory health forms. Sometimes additional vaccines or forms are required, and you need to know this before the first day arrives.
- Make it fun! There can be a lot of stress associated with the changes a new school year brings. This stress can be on the parents and the children. Show your kids that it is a fun experience to have a new year ahead. Be sure to reinforce positives and not make the unknown fearful. This can be particularly daunting for kindergarteners or those going to school for the first time. Start slow, and attend a tour or orientation with your child before their first day to lessen the anxiety of a new situation and change.
- Stock up on school supplies. Getting the kids ready to go back to school is easiest if they are excited. Make the activities around going back to school a fun tradition. Include shopping for school supplies as a fun task. They will enjoy preparing a list and finding what items they need around the store. Try consolidating your trip into one catch-all location so you won’t have to scramble to three different locations to get each child the highlighters or cool pencil bag they crave.
- Develop a meal plan. Save yourself some brainstorming efforts and set a structure for meal plans. Each week, develop a shopping list based on the planned meals for the week. It will allow you to pack your kid’s lunches and have dinner ready with ease. Meal planning can be a fun way to get your kids interested in nutrition and cooking, too. They can make a list of their favorite meals and lunch ideas. If they know how the meal plan process works, they can even pack their own lunches. It will save you a lot of hassle.
- Facilitate after school arrangements. When August rolls around, it is a good time to start making those calls to the other parents. Organize your car pool for the year and set up after school arrangements. Sometimes it’s is a good time to have a playdate or two and meet up to discuss this with parents in person. Propose a shared digital schedule for all the parents involved to keep everyone in-the-loop and up-to-date on the changes. A group chat is a good way to check in with one another without having to make calls while your toddler hangs off your arm.