July 20, 2021

Now’s the Time…to Get Back into the Swing of School

It used to be that summer was the time for looser schedules, later bedtimes, and lighter learning. But factor in our nation’s pandemic, and those parameters kind of describe every season since early 2020. And while careful social distancing, testing, and immunizations are moving us back toward “normal,” our kids might have a more difficult transition than usual this coming fall.

Studies show time and again the first five years are crucial to lifelong success…and every year after builds on that early foundation. If you’re wondering about getting ready for back-to-school, now’s the time—and here is the place—for smarter starts and readier returns. Here are some great tips to help your kids—little and big alike—get back into school mode.

Reset Your Routine: If the pandemic has loosened your grip on your family’s usual rules and regs, now’s the time to rein it in and get ready for a new year.
• Help make your kids’ transition easier by gradually moving toward your regular school year bedtime/wakeup targets and reimplementing other limits (e.g., screen time, etc.)
• Establish a centralized family calendar to keep track of back-to-school events, activities, and meetings as schedules heat up
• Practice positive habits of picking out clothes the night before and placing important items by the door for smoother mornings
• Set a study space for school-age kids that’s quiet, well-lit, and well-supplied
• Get brains back in action with extra reading, worksheets, puzzles, and other “thought-full” projects

Soothe Any Anxieties: Some kids might be raring to go back to school while others feel ambivalent. Each of us has dealt differently with the pandemic’s uncertainties, so now’s the time to exhibit empathy and show support while accentuating the positive.
• Talk openly with your child about his or her feelings on returning to the classroom
• Offer words of encouragement and understanding, and reiterate the behaviors that will help keep them safe
• Share about a time when you were afraid and what you did to get through it
• Connect with other families/students who may be going through the same feelings to share support

Start Students Smartly: First-day jitters can feel practically seismic for kids who are starting preschool or elementary school for the first time. If you’ve got a new student in your midst, now’s the time to practice and get familiarized.
• Show your child the new school/care facility for comfort’s sake, before his or her first day
• Rehearse your new daily routine—from transportation to teachers, and backpacks to bedtimes
• Go on a tour (even a virtual tour) of the facility to get a feel for the new surroundings, and identify all the important spots (class-, bath-, play- and lunch rooms, etc.)
• Read books together about going to daycare, preschool, or kindergarten for the first time, or transitioning from grade to grade (or elementary- to middle school) for older students

Find Friendly Faces: Helping kids reconnect with peers—even younger ones in daycare—can go a long way to ease unknowns and solidify feelings of belonging.
• Consider meeting classmates/families before school starts at a park or other safely distanced setting to share schedules and catch up
• Video call or email, if you can’t meet in person, to start making plans for the new year
• Continue sharing with social support systems even after school starts to help both families and students to get back into the swing of things

Keep What Works: If your family established new routines during the pandemic that made life richer (movie nights, family hikes, weekend waffles), decide what to keep while also reincorporating traditional schooling schedules/setups.

…and Offer Extra Support As Needed: If you’re concerned that your kids have fallen behind, are feeling fearful about restarting, or have grief or worry over losses sustained during the pandemic, please let your teachers know so we can partner together toward a supportive, nurturing, and calm transition.