As with any new or potentially unsettling situation — like starting school for the first time or entering a new grade or new school — allow kids time to adjust. Remind them that everyone feels a little nervous about the first day of school and that it will all become an everyday routine in no time.
Emphasize 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 the new duds (or snazzy accessories if your child has to wear a uniform).
It's also important to talk to kids about what worries them and offer reassurance: 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 just 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 starting a new school, contact the school before the first day to arrange a visit. 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 more familiar.
To help ease back-to-school butterflies, try to transition kids into a consistent school-night routine a few weeks before school starts. Also make sure that they:
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.
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 will be attending 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:
Transportation and safety:
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:
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:
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:
Encourage kids to:
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.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013
|Internet Public Library The Internet Public Library offers homework help for kids and teens.|
|Parent Teacher Association (PTA) The PTA encourages parental involvement in public schools.|
|Backpack Safety America (BSA) This website is dedicated to teaching parents, teachers, kids, and others the importance of properly packing, lifting, and carrying backpacks.|
|National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) The mission of the NASP is to promote educationally and psychologically healthy environments for all children and youth by implementing research-based programs that prevent problems, enhance independence, and promote optimal learning.|
|U.S. Department of Education This government site offers advice, links, homework help, and information for parents, teachers, and students.|
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