by Dr. Jillian Roberts
Source: Island Parent Magazine
Originally Published: August 2019
August can be a stressful time as you try to balance the fun of what’s left of summer while also getting your kids ready to go back to school. It’s hectic, but here are 8 ways to set yourself—and your family—up to succeed:
1. Get Your Child Ready Now.
Backpack, lunch kit, school supplies, nice outfit picked out for the first day. This isn’t all your responsibility. Encourage your child to think ahead about what they need, make a list and then choose as much of it as possible. Giving your child choice helps them develop a sense of agency as they grow older, and can also help them feel more in control if they’re anxious about school.
2. Create Simple Organization Systems.
Help your child create as many consistent routines as possible, like always putting their house keys in the same pocket of their backpack so they’re easy to find. Baskets and hooks near the door are great tools. Having specific spots for shoes, jackets, etc., rather than a pile on the floor, makes finding what’s needed easy during the hustle to get out the door each morning.
3. Put It All on One Calendar.
Have a big family calendar in a space everyone shares to keep schedules straight. Pick a different colour pen or marker and use it consistently for each person in the family. Encourage your child to write their homework down on it, including deadlines. Review this together each school night to ensure nothing is getting missed or forgotten.
4. Communicate in One Place.
Create a family communications journal to ensure there are no gaps in communication and everyone is up to speed. Check it daily when you check the calendar. You can even have everyone sign the entries to show they have read them. This helps everyone stay on the same page through the week.
5. Review (or Create) Your Social Media Plan.
Talk to your child about what social media they are using, or want to use, and what they need to consider to be safe and be a good digital citizen. Determine whether there are any new privileges for the new school year. Create the parameters for your family’s social media use—a social media plan—so everyone starts the school year with a clear understanding of expectations and rules. If you need some help, we’ve included an example social media plan for you.
6. Pick Extra-Curricular(s).
Encourage your child to pick their activities if they haven’t done so already. Reinforce the importance of sticking with things. Ensure a balanced approach, so your child is not overcommitted and still has time for free play. An option is to have one athletic and one creative activity. If you have more than one child, try enrolling them in different activities if possible to allow each child to develop a unique identity and to reduce comparisons and sibling rivalry.
7. Encourage New Friendships.
The start of the school year is a great opportunity to make new friends. Talk with your child about the importance of reaching out in friendship to other kids, particularly those who are lonely or marginalized. Discuss what makes a for good influences and not-so-good influences. Reinforce the number one friendship rule: to have friends, you must first be a good friend. This is valuable for you to demonstrate when you’re meeting new parents of your child’s new friends.
8. Get Involved.
The start of the school year is an opportunity for you to get engaged in your child’s life. Yes, we are all juggling a million things, but if you can make the time for this it will allow you to stay current and connected to your child. Volunteer at school. Join the Parent Advisory Council (PAC). If structured school activities aren’t your thing, try throwing a back to school barbecue for your child’s class so everyone gets a chance to meet and connect.
If your child is showing signs of significant worry about going back to school, you may need to reach out to a therapist or child psychologist. Your child may be struggling with anxiety and need a medical professional to help. This may also be relevant if your child has had experiences with a bully at their school and is fearful about seeing them again.
Starting back to school preparations as soon as possible will help you enjoy the last of summer with your children. No one wants to start the school year with a panicked sprint to get it all done right before school starts. Save yourself and your family the stress and hassle, and work together to each do you part to start the school year off right.
Dr. Jillian Roberts is a child psychologist, UVic professor and mother. She is the CEO & Founder of FamilySparks and the author of Kids, Sex and Screens: Raising Strong, Resilient Children in the Sexualized Digital Age.
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