by Elisa All
Camp is over, the summer math packet is nearly done, several titles on the recommended book list are checked off and all that’s left to do is round up the remaining school supplies in preparation for the first day of school.
So why is there a sense of impending doom lurking around the house?
Summer break gives most everyone a chance to decompress a bit, to release some pressure in one languorous sigh. So when it’s time to inhale again, many kids (and parents) feel anxious about the transition.
The good news is that a little preparation goes a long way toward making back-to-school time less stressful for everyone in the house.
Start with the most important thing: fun. Reminding your child about the parts of school he or she likes best may get him or her thinking positively. Perhaps he or she hasn’t seen classmates all summer. Consider arranging a playdate with a favorite pal during the days before school. Maybe they can walk to school together or at least meet up on the playground before the bell rings and walk in together? At the very least, a phone conversation may help your child realize that everyone is nervous about the first day – he or she is not alone.
Aside from seeing old friends, the start of school is an opportunity to make new ones. Maybe there’s a shy child or a new kid in class who could really use your child’s friendship. Encourage your child to be a friend to someone in need.
If possible, it’s a good idea to take your child to school on the first day. Whether you walk, bike or drive, it gives you the opportunity to allay any last-minute fears, regroup with parents and teachers and feel connected to your child’s “home away from home.”
Practical matters require attention, too. Does your child need a new backpack? If he or she will be carrying a heavy load of books, it’s worth getting an ergonomic, padded backpack or even one with a set of wheels so it can be pulled when possible. Keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics says a backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.
School forms are a must, and having them filled out in advance is a huge timesaver. If you haven’t already, now is the time to visit the pediatrician to get up-to-date medical forms and any needed immunizations. If your child requires medication, be sure school administrators know. Emergency contact forms are vital, and so is telling your child whom they should contact in case you can’t be reached. Make sure your child knows whom to go to if you are late at pick-up or otherwise out of touch.
Lunch is a key part of your child’s day at school and is a time most kids look forward to. If you make your child’s lunch, think about packing a favorite food, a special treat or even a hand-written note from you. Kids notice even the littlest of things and your thoughtfulness will be remembered and appreciated.
If your child is still nervous, expressing him- or herself with words or pictures can help. Consider a back-to-school journal where he or she can write about the last days of summer or draw pictures of what he or she thinks the new classroom will look like. Even making a card for the teacher can get a child excited about the upcoming school year.
If it’s you that’s having a hard time with the start of school, you’re not alone, either. Many parents feel bittersweet about their child moving on to the next stage of his or her development, and that’s a natural part of the parenting process. Just remember to enjoy every moment as much as you can – it goes by so fast.