Of all times for parents, one of the most stressful is the first day of school. While most schools have made classroom supply lists, bus and school schedules and other resources available for parents, nothing can completely overcome that first day jitters. Will the bus be on time? Will my child know how to get on right bus coming home? Will they like their teachers? Will they really eat their lunch?
There are lots of suggestions and recommendations available to make sure your child gets off to a good start. Here are a few of them:
- Visit the school before the first day: Many schools have open houses or “back to school” nights where parents and children can get acquainted with their school, classroom and teacher. If not, then make an appointment with the school principal or teacher and visit the school so your child has some familiarity with their classroom.
- Connect with friends: Strength in numbers applies here. Your child needs friends and acquaintances before the first day of school. Going to school as a group can eliminate a lot of stress, for both parents and children. It’s also important for parents to have another parent in the class so they can check on what the teacher “really said or did” in class.
- Get the right tools for the job: Schools have a specific supply list for a reason. Everyone has the same materials to accomplish assignments in a similar manner. If the supply list says “Get a box of 16 or 32 crayons”, don’t think you’re doing your child a favor by getting the 64 or 128 crayon box. Follow the list. Ask the teacher if they need anything else for that first week, and if you’re able, help out the teacher with an extra box of tissues or notebooks.
- Ease into the routine: It’s a big shift from a summertime schedule to a school schedule – especially for middle or high school children who may sleep in until the afternoon. Avoid the first day mayhem by practicing the routine a few days before school starts. Routines help all children feel comfortable and a solid school schedule will make that first day and days following go much smoother. This includes bed times, including middle and high school students.
- Test drive your transportation plan: Depending on how your child gets to school, it’s a good idea to try out the plan, especially if your going to a new school. If your child walks to school, walk with them to school the week before. Make sure the route is safe and emphasize that they shouldn’t take short cuts. The best way to walk to school is with a group. If you drive or carpool to school, drive the route in the morning and afternoon. Know where the correct parking lots, drop-offs and pick-up places are around the school. For bus riders, walk to the bus stop and know where to wait for the bus. Parents might wait with students for the bus to come on the first few days. If your high school student is driving to school, make sure they have the correct sticker or permit for parking. Establish guidelines when the student should be home after school.
- Make homework a priority: Have a designated place and time for homework. It should be a quiet place without a television or computer screen. Complete homework early or at least on a schedule. If your child is having difficulty completing homework, contact the teacher or guidance counselor sooner, rather than later.
- Make healthy meals: There’s no doubt that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your child needs good fuel so they can learn. Many schools have breakfast programs and there are many quick, yet healthy options for parents and children on the go before school.
- Check in with your child’s doctor: A pre-school physical and eye exam are good practices to make sure your child is ready for school. Most schools require up-to-date immunizations. Keep a copy of immunization records for yourself.
- Backpack Safety: Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Try to pack it light. the backpack should never weigh more than 15% of your child’s body weight. Pick a day to go through your child’s backpack each week to find “forgotten items” and remove unneeded items. A rolling backpack may help if your child has to carry many items with them from class to class, but remember that they may be difficult to roll in rain or snow, they still have to be carried up stairs and they may not fit in lockers.
Information from: PBS.org, US Department of Education, HealthyChildren.org,