Back-To-School Tips For Parents: How To Ease Your Child’s Return To Campus
Wondering what you can do to help your children prepare for their return to campus? School psychologist, Wendy Marks Firestone, offers tips to help make the transition back to school a smooth and successful one.
Going back to school this year feels anything but normal. Kids have been attending school from home for the last year-and-a-half, so returning to campus is a big deal — filled with anxiety, trepidation, curiosity and excitement. I spoke with Wendy Marks Firestone, a school psychologist with more than 30 years of experience, to find out how parents can help their kids prepare for their return to the lively, social world of in-person learning.
Here are 7 back-to-school tips to help their children successfully transition from home to school, both in class and on the playground:
1. Prepare morning routines
Since students have become accustomed to the school day involving rolling out of bed and staring at a screen, the transition back to carpools and in-person classes will require establishing new routines, and the sooner the better. “Before kids go back to school, parents should make sure their kids already have a routine: getting up in the morning at a certain time, not coming downstairs in their pajamas… Create a chart or wipe-off board to help your child feel in control and learn what’s expected of them,” says Mrs. Marks Firestone.
2. Pick out school supplies together
Selecting back-to-school supplies, from backpacks and lunch boxes to clothes and shoes, helps kids get excited about their return to in-person classes. “Make sure they have the supplies they need. The difference now is that students have been removed from the classroom for so long, especially younger children, they may not have had the experience or opportunity to pick out their own school supplies,” says Mrs. Marks Firestone. Since kids tend to lose things, giving them personalized items like My Little Shop UK’s Liberty of London personalized initial backpack and pencil case or Hart+Land initial sweatshirt, not only makes them extra-special, but also help kids recognize which materials belong to them.
3. Gently transition to a new normal
Going back to school involves a shift in students’ schedules and activities, but kids are remarkably resilient and adaptable. Mrs. Marks Firestone recommends helping children become acclimated to these changes in advance by previewing what to expect. “Help kids understand what might happen during a school day like gym, art and recess, preparing them for different unstructured activities that weren’t a part of their day last year while working remotely,” she says. Anticipating what to expect will help kids adjust more readily than encountering everything unaware.
4. Ask and answer questions
“Ask children, ‘What’s your biggest excitement? Worry?’ Help gauge where your children are at with regards to going back to school by answering any questions they might have. Some children are really excited, while others are nervous,” says Mrs. Marks Firestone. “Talk about what they can do if they feel hesitant or worried.” Discuss ways to help with physical separation from their parents and home. You can give them a special item like a small photo to tuck into their pocket or locker for security and safekeeping.
5. Develop after-school habits
Just as new morning routines need to be established, so will after-school ones. “It’s good for parents to help their children get into a routine early on,” says Mrs. Firestone. “Give them a little free time, then have them do their homework. This systematic routine helps kids get their work done before playing.” The sooner these habits are initiated, the easier it will be for kids to adjust to their new weekday routine.
6. Empower your child
The more information kids have in advance, the more relaxed and confident they’ll feel. Practice scenarios — from finding the school bathroom to their locker — and ways to politely ask for directions. “Practicing how to say things to get what you need, like how to ask another child to play, helps kids feel empowered, so by the time they actually arrive at school, they’re mentally prepared.”
7. Keep communication open
If your child is worried about going back to school or feels anxious about being with groups of kids, let your child’s teacher know. “Educating children is a partnership between parents and teachers, and it’s important for kids to be an active part of that process. Parents can reach out to their child’s teacher and write a letter to open the lines of communication. Reaching out can make a world of difference in helping a worried or unfamiliar child feel more at ease.”
It’s okay — and perfectly understandable — if you feel nervous, too. As parents, we’ve been with our kids 24/7 for more than a year. Letting go can be hard. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re experiencing, and savor the opportunity to prepare for this next chapter together…and maybe schedule a well-deserved reward for yourself after the first morning drop-off.
Wendy Marks Firestone is a licensed and nationally certified school psychologist with more than 30 years’ experience working in both public and private settings with teachers, administrators, parents and children.
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