Just the phrase “Back to School” is enough to make anyone’s blood pressure rise. Seriously. Between the pressure a student faces (what to wear, who to sit with at lunch, what to do if you are super confused in class, etc.) and the responsibility a parent has (PTA meetings, packing school lunches, driving back and forth to extracurricular activities, and so on and so on), it most definitely takes the fun out of school supply shopping. But I’m here to tell you that there are ways to totally and completely rule going back to school….and trust me, I’m an expert! Here are my drama free “Back to School” tips from a teacher:
Adjust Your Sleep Schedule
I’m talking to both kids and parents here…because you BOTH are going to need to recharge your battery before heading back to school. I know, I know, you want to stay up later to catch one more firefly and make one more s’more, but you are going to regret it when you wake up cranky and groggy in the morning. I recommend moving up bedtime by 10 minutes every night until the entire family is going to bed when they should be. Need some sleeping tips? Then be sure to chat with my favorite local sleep expert, the GIT Mom.
Stockpile School Supplies
If I had a quarter for every time a student ran out of pencils or lost a notebook, I would be a millionaire. Seriously. But lucky for them, I was always prepared with an extra glue stick, binder, ruler, etc. because I stocked up during “School Supply Season.” It’s absolutely amazing what kind of deals you can get on loose-leaf paper, writing utensils, and everything else on your school’s supply list. But here’s the thing…you should always buy MORE than what is required. Create a little stockpile where your kids work so that they don’t have the excuse to avoid homework because they ran out of something. That way you won’t be shelling out big bucks for a binder with only one month left of school…just hit up your supply that you created back in the Fall.
Talk it Out
I know it is easy to be in denial about the end of summer, but if you have a child who refuses to talk about or address going back to school, that should wave a red flag for you. So go on a walk with the dog after dinner or head to one of our favorite hiking trails and talk it out. Need some great questions to start off the dialogue:
How are you feeling about going back to school?
What are you nervous about for the upcoming school year?
What can I do at home to help you feel more prepared for school?
What are you excited for this school year?
Have a Game Plan
One of the scariest things for both my students and my boys about going back to school is the fear of the unknown, which is why we always come up with a clear game plan before school starts. Think of it as a family schedule so to speak. We map out when everyone will wake up, what they have to do before walking out the door, how everyone will get to and from school, what will happen between school and dinnertime, and what needs to happen before lights are out for the night. For younger ones, we create a schedule with a few key pictures to signal them (for example, my boys are AWFUL at brushing their teeth so that is a major image on our family schedule). For the older ones, you can even create a shared family Google calendar to keep track of extra curricular activities, after school jobs, chores, etc.
Call in Help When You Need It
The back to school grind can be totally draining for both parents and kids. That’s why it is important to always ask for help whenever you need it. For kids, this can be asking a teacher for extra clarification on an assignment or a request for some extra one on one time with a parent after a particularly hard day. For parents, this can be using a lunch service like Pak’d to make school lunches so you don’t have to, or to pick up a pre made rotisserie chicken from the store to make a delicious semi-homemade meal. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.
Let It Go
Something totally embarrassing happen at school (in my experience, kids often accidentally call me “Mom” when asking a question and the ensuing teasing can be awful)? Forget to bring something to the bake sale? LET IT GO. Seriously. Yes, something that you didn’t want to happen did happen. But what matters most is how you react to it. Kids need to know that they have a strong support system at both home and school (that’s why parent-teacher communication is so key!) consisting of peers and adults who will stand up for and support them through anything that comes their way. We adults need to model that we all make mistakes (sometimes even very embarrassing ones) but it’s all going to be okay. And you know what makes it even better? Ice cream, especially when it’s homemade.
Do Your Homework
Now, that doesn’t mean that parents should do a child’s homework. When that happens you send the message that (1) homework isn’t important and (2) they can pass off their responsibilities to someone else. Neither of those are true. Parents should be doing their “homework,” which entails finding out who your child hangs out with, what activities your child enjoys doing both inside and outside of school, how things are going in the classroom….all that good stuff. And kids should just plain do their homework. My best teacher tip is to set up a consistent homework routine to ensure that completing homework doesn’t become a battle, and to have constant communication with teachers so if you are confused trying to help your child with homework at the kitchen table, you know you have a helping hand who is just an e-mail away.
It sounds simple but it sure can be a challenge sometimes, right? So sometimes the best thing to do when studying for a test and racing around from one activity to another is to just stop and have some fun. Have a dance party, go to the movies, have breakfast for dinner…simply take a break from school and enjoy life. That way you will be refreshed and ready for whatever the school year throws your way.
What are your tips and traditions for back to school?