The long, lazy days of summer are rapidly disappearing. It's nearly time to set that alarm clock about a half hour earlier. The light and breezy summer traffic patterns are coming to an end, and soon you'll be dealing with more cars on the road, school zones, and school buses. And if you have a child heading back to school this year, your mornings will be a whirlwind of breakfast dishes, homework papers, permission slips, lost sneakers, and backpacks.
Luckily, there are things you can start doing now to make the transition from summer to school easier – especially if your child is going to school for the first time or will be starting a new school this year.
- Check out this back-to-school resource. Get information on immunizations and other health requirements your child will need (and schedule that check-up now to take care of any issues before school begins), find out if your state offers a tax-free holiday and get the dates, learn about school bus safety and child nutrition programs, learn about financial assistance, and even get healthy sack lunch tips.
- Go to the school website and get the dates for the meet-and-greet event so your child can see his or her new classroom and meet the teacher. Walk around the school and find the cafeteria, the restrooms, the office, and the clinic so your child will feel more comfortable on his first day of school.
- Arrange a play date with one or two of the kids in your child's class. Already having a friend when he heads off to school for the first time will make him feel more comfortable.
- If your child will be walking to school, make a couple of practice trips with him so he'll be familiar with the route. Talk to your child about the rules you expect him or her to follow – especially safety rules. If possible, walk with him or her the first morning and introduce your child to the crossing guard.
- If your child will be taking the bus, drive the route with your child and check out the stops to help your child get familiar with the area. Be sure to write your child's bus number down and place it prominently in a place he or she won't lose it (such as in the front of his notebook).
- Start your early-morning routine a week early. Getting your child up and used to having breakfast at this new time will make the actual school mornings that much easier – and it will help your child fall asleep easier if he will have an earlier bedtime once school begins.
- Exercise your child's brain! Get them excited about going back to school through educational games and activities.
- Go back-to-school shopping! Depending on the grade, you'll probably need paper, crayons, glue, scissors, pencils, folders, and markers. Get the back-to-school supply list from the teacher, find it on the school website, or look for the printouts stacked in kiosks inside the discount stores. Be sure to get some back-to-school outfits, new shoes, a backpack, and a lunchbox.
- Get involved! Join the PTA, volunteer in the classroom, be a room parent – being visible helps in so many ways. You'll stay in-the-know as to what is happening at the school and you'll be able to address any issues your child may encounter right away. Teachers and other parents will know who you are and will feel more comfortable approaching you. You'll know who your child is talking about when he tells you about his day. And, best of all, it will ease your child's fears and help you stay connected.