A Smooth Back To School

About mid-July, the airwaves light up with back to school advertising. While buying school supplies is important, it is only one of the tasks that parents & kids need to complete. To hit the ground running, be sure to do the following:

Buying supplies is fun, and can be a great way to get excited about the upcoming year. At the same time, we often buy more than we need. Before heading out to shop, take time to go through drawers, backpacks, and cabinets to take stock of what you already own. Be sure to check for…

  1. School supplies. Feel free to pitch the “dead” supplies (e.g. broken crayons, short pencils, pencils without erasers, binders which won’t fully close, “weak” markers/highlighters, etc.)
  2. Clothing. Try on the pants/sweater/jackets from last year. Donate (or hold) whatever no longer fits.
  3. Activity gear. Assess your sporting equipment, dance clothes, concert attire, etc.

Once you know what you have, you are ready to shop. Keep in mind that many teachers, coaches and directors have specific requests, meaning you will likely need to shop after school has begun. Nonetheless, stocking up in advance minimizes the time you will need with your child later when they are busy. Click here for a Back To School Supplies List.

Believe it or not, most children do not prefer to work at a desk in their room.
Talk with your children about where they like to work (e.g. kitchen table, the floor, the dining room, etc.) Once you have decided where kids will work, assemble the supplies they will need for daily tasks so they are handy. For example, have a bin or basket which can be set on the kitchen island, or a rolling cart that can be pulled out of a closet to the dining room. Also, discuss in advance where computer work will be done, and at what times of day. Setting limits now minimizes conflicts later.

Designate an area where extra school supplies will be stored. This may be a dresser in the hallway, a shelf or two in a closet, a kitchen cabinet or a bin under the bed. Teach children to keep only one or two of each item they need at their workstation, and to access the “supplies” area when they need a replacement. This keeps the work area from becoming overly cluttered. Be sure to group like items together in bags or smaller boxes, and label everything so family members can find what they need.

Children and adults alike walk in the door with “stuff.” It is critical to have a designated space for all belongings. For instance, set a tray where children should place all paperwork they need signed, a hook for jackets, a place for the backpack, a specific drop spot for the lunchbox and a hamper for dirty sports gear. Older children will need to know where they are expected to charge electronics and hang car keys.

The beginning of school typically requires a lot of forms. On the positive side, many schools, teams and activities are moving to online submission. The bad news is, you no longer have a physical piece of paper reminding you that it needs to be filled out. Set aside time in your calendar for working on these as school resumes. Typically, you will need to complete the following forms (and provide payment where necessary):

  • Emergency Forms
  • Enrollment Forms
  • Health Forms
  • Permission Forms
  • Release Forms

Establishing a routine makes life easier for everyone. Post a list (e.g. an index card on the bathroom mirror or near the door) that reminds children what they need to remember each morning and evening. Checklists can include reminders about chores, personal hygiene, homework, gear they need to bring and more. For younger children, consider a visual – such as a flip chart with a picture – that helps them remember which special activity they have coming up tomorrow (e.g. gym, library, art.)

As soon as schedules are available, put all dates into a master calendar. Whether you use a digital, paper or giant dry-erase system, commit to using one location where all of the family’s activities can be seen together. Color code by family member if possible. Be sure to include dates for:

  • Activities
  • Practices/rehearsals
  • Days off of school/early dismissals
  • Back-to-School night (book your babysitter immediately!)
  • Concerts
  • Field trips

Lastly, the first day of school is always a milestone. Consider planning something special to celebrate the day. Bake a special cake, serve doughnuts at the bus stop, take a photo in a traditional spot, serve a special meal, hang a balloon, etc.  Small traditions like this can help ease the anxiety of first day jitters.

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The start of school is a busy, and exciting, time. As with all life transitions, a little planning goes a long way.

What tip do you have for making the start of school run smoothly?