School bells will soon be ringing, and while that means no more sleeping in or spending lazy days at the pool, welcoming structure and routine back into family life helps get kids who are reluctant to return to school more motivated to go. With a positive attitude and a few back-to-school tips, even reluctant school-goers can start the school year off right; and getting off on the right foot paves the way for school success for the entire year.
1. Reintroduce nightly routines. It’s easy to get off schedule during the summer when longer days beckon kids outside late and sleeping in is easy to do. Introduce nightly routines before school starts or as early in the school year as possible because it may take children a few days to adjust. As a family, read a book together to simulate academic routine before daily homework starts.
If you have tweens or teens that have been staying up late during the summer, take their bedtime back 15 minutes every night until you get to the desired bedtime, so it isn’t too much of a shock to kids’ sleep cycles when they return to school.
2. Get organized. Organize areas that you will use for school preparations. Make a place for lunch and breakfast items in the refrigerator and pantry so everything will be ready to go when making breakfast or lunch during the week.
Restock home desk supplies and prep study areas. Organize your laundry room with baskets for school uniforms, sports uniforms, and individual kid’s clothes. And don’t overlook your vehicle. Keep a basket with all of the things you might need for those hectic drives between school, work, and after-school activities.
3. Purge last year’s items. Go through the kids’ backpacks and closets and get rid of anything that is outgrown or worn out. Sell the nicest items at consignment stores or a yard sale and save what you make to put toward new items this school year.
If your child has a hard time letting go of items - even though the items are worn out or don’t fit - try putting the items in storage for a month or two, and then bring them back out. I’ve done this with my own kids, and usually they are willing to give up the items when they realize they haven’t missed them.
4. Devise a shopping strategy. After you have purged your home of old items, it is fun to replace them. Sometimes kids get excited about returning to school because they get new clothes and supplies.
Check out all the sales flyers and compare prices for the things each child needs. Make a shopping list of needed school supplies, clothing items, and any organizing tools you might need for closets.
If your child’s school has already sent a supply list, shop early to avoid the crowds and frustration to find that items are already out of stock. Sometimes I even shop late in the evening for school supplies when the aisles are less crowded, so I can look carefully for what my kids need. The more you plan, the more you can do in one trip (you might even make it a special day out with your kids).
5. Attend school orientations. ‘Sneak-a-peek.’ ‘Back-to-School Night.’ ‘Readyfest.’ They are called a variety of names, but back-to-school orientations are another way to create a desire to go back to school. Students can meet their teacher, check out their classroom, and see friends they haven’t seen all summer. This can make students previously hesitant to return to school eager to get started.
6. Set goals. Help your child set a goal for the school year or set a family goal together. Maybe your child wants to ace pre-algebra, start a kid blog, or read more books than they read last year. Or maybe your child wants to kick more goals in soccer this year or nail that back handspring they have been working on in gymnastics. As a family, maybe you want to volunteer together at school or raise money for a worthy cause in the community. Setting goals can motivate kids and families to have an amazing school year.
7. Celebrate with back-to-school traditions. It can be simple, like snapping a morning photo shoot before the first day of school, or elaborate, like hosting a neighborhood back-to-school bash at your house. Have a family meal at your favorite restaurant after the first day or plan a special weekend getaway before homework and autumn sporting events kick in. Whatever you choose, model an upbeat attitude about the start of a new school year, and chances are your child will, too.
Janeen Lewis, M.Ed., is a writer, elementary school teacher, and mom. She has been published in several parenting publications as well as Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales.
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