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6 Tips to Help Gear up for Back-to-School

Starting (or returning to) (pre)school can be nerve wracking for many children and parents. For some kids, it may be the first time being away from home. For others, it might be a return to school after a lazy summer holiday. Either way, this time of year can be emotional. What will school be like? Will the other children be nice? How will staff ensure the safety of all children?


These anxieties and fears are often mixed with excitement and anticipation. It’s important to remember that kids take their cue from their parents. According to Brigit Katz of the Child Mind Institute, “Kids look to their parents for information about how to interpret ambiguous situations; if a parent seems consistently anxious and fearful, the child will determine that a variety of scenarios are unsafe.” The more you emphasize the excitement of making new friends and exploring new activities, the more your kids will see this as an exciting time.


There are several other things you can do to help you and your preschooler prepare for a new school year. These tips will help create a smooth adjustment to your new routine and help ensure a successful school year.


Set Expectations

Talk to your little one about what preschool will be like, especially if this is their first year. If they have some separation anxiety, reassure them that you will leave but then come back. Try to be specific about when. They may not quite have grasped the concept of time, but they will likely understand directives like “after lunch”, “after nap”, or “after outdoor play.” The more tangible you can be, the better.


If your child is not used to sharing toys or their space, discuss this aspect of preschool as well. Provide as much information as you can to limit any surprises. There are many books about going to school that can be particularly helpful. Check out these 11 titles from Scholastic Parents.


Visit the school and meet the teachers

A great way to help set expectations is to set up a visit to your school. Most schools will be happy to arrange a time when you can come in to meet the teachers and tour the facility. Seeing where they will be playing, eating, and learning can help kids better understand what to expect.


Even if you can’t get inside, just seeing the playground can create more excitement for uncertain kiddos.


Establish a Daily Routine

Getting into a routine as quickly as possible will be invaluable in helping you and your children adjust to school. The Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center notes, “Just like adults, children feel more confident and secure when their daily activities are predictable and familiar.” Keep regular bedtimes and try to wake at a consistent time in the morning. Be mindful about when and how you eat your meals. If you have after school activities, keep their days and times as consistent as possible.


Since everything about going back to school will be new, try to limit other new tasks or activities —at least for a few weeks.


Let them choose a few supplies (including snacks!)

Helping kids feel (somewhat) in control is important during the first few weeks of school when so much of the transition back to school may feel out of their control. Letting them choose a new backpack or lunchbox can go a long way in creating joy about the upcoming school year.


If your child does not need a new backpack, simply having them pick a few snacks or even a new water bottle can have the same impact and creating a sense of excitement.


Send them off with something from home

While bringing a beloved stuffed animal or toy may be discouraged by your school, sending kids off with something from home is a great way to remind them that you’re still “with them” and that you’ll be back. A small family picture book they can keep in their backpack or one of mom’s favorite scarves can be enough of a taste of home. Familiar objects can be a huge comfort to anxious kids while you're away.


Create a Goodbye Plan

Probably the most difficult part of your first back-to-school week will be dropping off. Often the first day —with the built-up excitement —goes surprisingly well. It’s sometimes the following days, when your kids realize this is the new routine, that they can become more reluctant to say goodbye.


When saying goodbye for the day, do not linger and do not try to sneak out. It’s best to be enthusiastic and keep it brief. Your child still may start to cry but resist the urge to run back in for another hug (as hard as this may be!). They will likely calm down as soon as you are gone and can focus on getting settled with the other students.


You and your child can work together to create a goodbye routine. Being consistent is one of the best ways to ensure a smooth goodbye. Maybe you get them started on an activity then say goodbye with a wave. Maybe you help them hang up their coat and then say goodbye with a hug. As long as you stick to the same routine, your child will adjust.


Back-to-school is an exciting time for families. These tips will help keep the focus on fun and minimize any anxieties or fears your little one (or you) may have.