Every day for the entire summer, my middle son has asked, “how many more days until school starts?” While he is sad to see the summer end, I am thrilled to get back to schedules and routines. Both things my family thrives on. With back to school, comes the anxiety and stress of new teachers, classrooms and friends. Will the boys be able to adapt to new schedules? How will they handle a later/earlier lunch time? Will their new teachers be prepared to handle all quirky things that make up my kids?
So how do we navigate these changes?
After many successful and not-so-successful starts to different school years, we have a decent system for started on the right foot. Transitions, even familiar ones, are hard for my kids and we try to get the school year off to a great start.
Here’s what works best for our family at Back to School time.
- At the end of the previous school year, we ask that our kids spend some time in the next grade level classrooms. This allows the boys the opportunity to look around and meet the teachers. Plus, over the summer we can talk to the kids about the exciting things they learned in the classrooms.
- Over the summer, we try to have some playdates with returning and new friends. This helps the kids get used to some of the friends they will be spending every day with. It also gives us parents an opportunity to build our school support system and get to know other parents.
- We try to normalize and problem-solve their concerns. When our kids were younger, we would read books about school and write social stories. We try to affirm and recognize their concerns. Just because I know that finding a bathroom will be easy, doesn’t mean I should dismiss their concern.
- At the end of the summer, we try to drop off school supplies and see the classroom one more time. We also do a “walk through” of the morning routine, reminding the kids of where we will drop them off, how they will wait in line for their teachers, etc. Even for kids returning to the same school, this can be helpful for reminding them of the school routines.
- We connect with our kids’ teachers. This is always a tricky thing to navigate. I want to give the teachers some background information on the boys but I also want the kids to have a fresh start. The things that were challenging in first grade might be easier in second grade. What I’ve started doing are giving the teacher the three things they need to know about each kid. I try to make them specific, for example, “If he gets upset, he likes some space, doesn’t want to be touched and is calmed down by being around animals” or “If he gets hungry he cannot function. Let him eat a snack if needed.”
- Involve our kids in back to school planning. We shop for school supplies together, pick out first day outfits, lunchboxes and backpacks. My kids love sharpening pencils and it gives us another opportunity to talk about the exciting things that school will bring.
- Work with the kids to problem solve areas of school that were challenging last year. “Remember how lunch time was challenging last year, what can we do to make it amazing this year?” I often find my kids have solutions to their own problems that I’ve never thought of. Plus, it empowers them!
I am hopeful that this school year will be off to a smooth start for everyone. I plan to spend the first day of school sitting quietly on my couch, enjoying a toy-free living room. Both things I’ve missed this summer.