Easing Back to School Stress – Tips for Parents
By Blog Editor Susan Wells
The stress of back to school usually starts in our house as the end of July nears, and school supply lists arrive with registration packets. My kids start worrying about losing the later bedtimes, non-stop play dates and extra free time. Over the next three weeks, we will be sharing some tips and advice for easing the anxiety surrounding returning to the classroom.
- Shop for school supplies early. In my children’s early school years, I’d procrastinate and wait until the first day of school started creeping up on us before I’d shop. I thought this would ease mine and my children’s anxiety by not acknowledging its inevitability until summer was almost over. Simple supplies like pencils, erasers, etc. were still available, but harder to find items like primary composition books were non-existant. I ended up running all over town and searching the Internet for those last few supplies. This caused more stress for all of us, as we spent additional time on search missions. Now, we shop in mid-to-late July and then stack it up in a corner until it’s needed in late August.
- Get the teacher contact information early and utilize it. Don’t wait until school starts or even those first conferences to express your concerns and challenges to the teacher. Send the teacher an email before school starts. Teachers must jump in with both feet and learn 20-30 kids’ names, learning styles, strengths, weaknesses and skill levels. When meeting with my school’s principal last year, she encouraged me to reach out to my child’s new teacher right away and share my concerns with her. Talking with the teacher before the insanity begins, gives the teacher a head start getting to know their students. Kristen Mason from Busy Kids = Happy Mom also agrees and shares her tips for connecting early…
- Set all family/homework rules and plans a week before school starts. Charts or posters that list when homework will be focused on, how much time screen time is allowed on school days, bedtimes, wake times and chores. Give your children the expectations in advance so they know what is expected during the week.
- Use a family calendar. Use whatever works best for you – wipe boards, planners, or apps like Cozi are all great ways to display a family calendar and keep everyone notified of the week by week schedule. Again, it is all about setting expectations and keeping everyone organized.
- Take a practice run. If your child rides the bus, walk with your child to the bus stop and talk about what is acceptable and against the rules while waiting for and riding the bus. If your child will walk or ride a bike, take the route on a day before school. Discuss which routes are good to take and which ones aren’t. If you have friends’ homes along the way or “safe” houses, point them out so you child knows where to go if they need help along the way. Go over rules for getting to and from school – can they stop at a friend’s house or go straight home?
- Visit the school. Many preschools, elementary schools, middle and high schools all offer visit days before the first day of school. Walk around, meet the teachers and get familiar with the new school to eliminate as many unknowns as possible. Blogger Laura Hutchinson also adds, “If a face-to-face visit with the teacher or school isn’t possible, photos of the school and/or teacher, a Skype interview, phone call, or even just an email or letter can be helpful.”
- Create a worry board. Kim Vij from The Educator’s Spin On It has her children write out their worries on a wipe board and categorize them by big worries and little worries. She also has them list their fears by Likely to Happen and Less Likely to Happen. After the fears are written down, she discusses them and helps the kids find strategies for working through them.
- Read books that take your child through the new grade and experience. Here’s a grade-specific reading list from Nyla’s Crafty Teaching. When my girls were in the younger grades, we always read “The Night Before…” books during the week before school started.
- A visit from the Back to School Fairy. Twas the night before the first day of school and all through the house everyone is sleeping…..or maybe not! If your child is is a little anxious or dreading the return of school, have the fairy visit them over night. Busy Kids = Happy Mom has a fun printable and explains this activity on her blog. What a great idea. I needed this a few years ago.
What are your family traditions or tips to help get your kids back to school while easing the stress?