Tips for Parents: Back to School Edition

Remember late May? Your days of school pick-up lines and homework folders were coming to an end. You could almost taste it! You asked yourself, am I more excited for summer than my kids? Or, maybe you dreaded summer and the long weeks of entertaining little ones that stretched out before you. Love it or hate it, summer break is almost over. The school supplies list is in your inbox and every retailer is offering back-to-school discounts. Are you prepared?

Whether your sixteen-year-old will be driving herself to school this year or your first child is starting Pre-K 4, JFS knows that the summer-to-school transition can bring stress to many families. We put together some tips for making that transition easier on families. Remember, if stress or anxiety begins to impact your overall quality of life, seek the help of a mental health professional. JFS therapists can help you address the unique needs of you and your family. Don’t hesitate to reach out today by calling (504) 831-8475.

Talk with your partner and children

Before you print a 60-page checklist off of Pinterest, talk with your children and your partner. Ask them what ideas they have about getting back into the swing of a school schedule. Their thoughts and opinions might surprise you. Discuss the challenges of previous years and what helped ameliorate them. Make your plan as a family so that everyone feels a sense of responsibility and inclusion.

Gradually return to a bedtime routine

If your child’s bedtime slowly slid back over the lazy hazy days of summer, begin to move it up. A harsh return to an earlier bedtime the night before school is doomed to fail. Not only has your child’s body not had time to acclimate, but some children might resent or protest the sudden change. Sleep is hugely influential to our physical and emotional well-being. A good night’s rest starts everyone off on the right foot. Discuss the importance of sleep and bedtime routines with your kids and begin a gradual transition now. And remember, bedtime is just as important for parents as for children!

Make a Morning Must list

Mornings are hectic for many families, which can create negative stress and anxiety. Well before the first day of school, make a family plan for things that absolutely must get done before leaving the house. This list might look different from you or your child’s ideal morning activities. For example, when you discuss going back to school, your child might want to include 10 minutes of playtime before leaving. You might want to sneak in a 30-minute workout. Making a plan to incorporate that playtime is an excellent way to empower your child’s sense of decision-making, time management, and independence. Every morning of the 150+ days of school will not be ideal, though. Getting dressed, brushing teeth, and feeding the dog are all pretty necessary before leaving for the day. Make a Morning Must list with your family so that you share morning time priorities. You might not have time for 30 minutes of Zumba every morning, but at least Fido is fed and your teeth are brushed!

Consider the weekend

As Monday through Friday fills up with soccer practice and guitar lessons, make time to consider the weekend. Even among families where both parents work full-time, weekends during the summer feel a bit more laid back than during the school year. The weekend is an opportunity to reset your schedule and your relationships. In the fog of the week, the laundry can pile up and the disagreement you had with your spouse on Tuesday morning can start to fester. Set priorities and boundaries for the weekend that set your family up for success during the week. Do you and your spouse need a Saturday morning check-in? A weekly or monthly date night? Scheduled self-care time? Discuss what a healthy balance is for your family. Be realistic about how much downtime everyone needs to feel their best and how clean the house should be on Sunday night. 

Revisit and organize resources

At the beginning of the school year, your child’s teacher might give you a load of information about how and when to contact them, what study aids are available to your child, and the best way to address academic or behavioral challenges. Resist the urge to stuff this folder in the kitchen junk drawer or leave this email floating in your inbox. Sometime in late October, you might be tearing your house apart looking for a phone number or searching Gmail for the right email address. Organize important documents, information, and resources in a central and accessible location. (Maybe this is the kitchen junk drawer for you!) Before school starts, have an idea of where to turn if you or your child need help. You might want to consider having the number of a well-recommended therapist or tutor. Also, consider what challenges your child faced in previous school years and have a plan in place if you need extra resources. 

Back-to-school preparation is all about setting your family up for success. Things will inevitably go wrong that you are not prepared for– that’s life! It’s okay to be caught off guard, surprised, or frustrated by a new or difficult circumstance or challenge. Proactive preparation will make those inevitable challenges much more manageable.

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