Back to School Tips

Back to School Tips
Kelly Moore, MA, MFT School Counselor


Congratulations, parents! You have survived the first days of school! We all know transitioning back to school comes with a host of mixed emotions, and getting back into a routine can be tough on the whole family. However, we also know that children do better when they know what to expect!  I’m going to harp on the power of preparation and establishing routines for a minute.

Children know how to follow routines gain much more from their school day. When consistent daily routines are developed at home, anxiety is reduced, and children are able to put more of their energy into what’s being taught in the classroom, which then allows teachers to maximize learning! Don’t worry if you haven’t developed a plan yet or if it has taken some time to work out the kinks in your routine.  It’s never too late to establish structure. If structure is needed now, it always will be needed. It’s not something that goes away. The good news is that structure can be introduced at any time! It’s just like having a good plan—and a good plan can be put in place at any time. Here are sample starting points to establish a Back to School Plan:

  • Structure yourself: Ask yourself, “Do I play a role in preventing mornings and evening routines from running smoothly?” Maybe you need to set the alarm for 15 minutes earlier. Maybe you need to designate 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. as a “non-technology” period -- meaning your kids have your full attention, and you are not to distracted by checking text messages and email so that you can keep the bedtime routine as smooth as possible without technology distraction. Are you allowing everyone some buffer time in case of unexpected events, or if a task that usually takes five minutes all of a sudden takes fifteen minutes one day? I will be honest with you. My poor planning is often the cause of an emotional trainwreck at my home. If I can get my ducks in a row, I’ve won half the battle.

  • Decide what the expectations are: What do you expect your kids to be able to do in the morning? What do you expect them to do in the afternoon or before bedtime? What tasks do you expect them to do independently, and what tasks require support from you? Be specific. Map it out for them. Look at trouble areas (also known as “expected meltdown moments”) and ask yourself if your expectations are realistic. The good news is  that parents can be transparent when the plan needs some tweaking!! You and your kids are all in this together -- figuring it out and being flexible!

  • Introduce structure in the best way to help your child: For younger kids, you might need a lot of visual prompts such as stickers, pictures, posters, or checklists. For older kids, you might have to have a family meeting where you sit down and talk with them about what you expect and what needs to happen.

  • Small changes: It might not be realistic to think that in seven days, morning and bedtime routines will be well-oiled machines. Instead, you could pick the time of day that proved to be the most challenging last year. Start there. Make it a problem-solving discussion. For example, you could say, “We had a hard time last year, and it didn’t work well for anyone. How are we going to make the mornings better this year?” Be explicit about your child’s role and the tasks you expect them to perform. Or, if getting ready for bed was the issue for your child in the previous school year, focus on what bedtime is going to look like from now on. Invite cooperation. Ask them questions like, “What’s hard about getting ready for bed? What can we do differently to make it better?”

  • Be positive: Parents, you are often your child’s “barometer” for feelings. In most given situation, they will likely look to you and gauge how you’re feeling before recognizing their own feelings. If you are stressed and worn down, they will likely feel stressed and worn down. Make a point to model positivity!

I am sending you my most sincere support as you embark on this new school year with your family! Remember to ask yourself, “What can I do to help our day a little smoother, so that my child is most available for learning?” 

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