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Back-to-school prep essentials

The start of a new school year with a new routine is a significant transition from the long lazy days of the summer. Whether your child is just beginning school for the first time or a seasoned student, a new grade level or school with new teachers, classes, and expectations requires an adjustment. Students and parents alike may feel a range of emotions as the back-to-school season quickly approaches. Ease your family's anxieties by adequately preparing for and setting the tone for the new school year.

Establish rules and routines

A new school year means a fresh start and transition from your schedule over the break. Even from one school year to the next, it's smart to reevaluate school year routines and rules. 

Your kids are a year older and might be in new schools and have new teachers, different schedules, or be ready for new responsibilities. So sit down as a family to discuss rules and expectations while also allowing your child some input. Setting clear expectations ahead of time can help things go more smoothly.

Here are some things you'll want to determine:

  • Each person’s responsibilities
  • A daily schedule
  • A family calendar for the year, months, and weeks.
  • Different expectations between weekdays and weekends
  • Screen time restrictions
  • Rules around playdates or spending time with friends
  • Homework routines and expectations
  • When kids need to be awake, eating breakfast, and ready to walk out the door
  • How kids will get to and from school and related expectations


Take safety precautions

Your child's safety is a significant concern when heading back to school and away from your watchful 

eye. Travel safety between home and school, whether your kids walk, ride a bike, take the bus, or carpool 

with another student or family is especially important. Create a safety plan for your kids before school resumes.

A reliable way to communicate with your child is essential to their safety. Phones are available that are appropriate for kids of all different ages. Just be aware of your school's policy regarding devices and make sure your child abides by the rules. 

Another useful way to protect your kids is to use location tracking apps. If you have older kids with phones, there are many apps for sharing or tracking locations using their phones. Options include GPS tracking or geofencing, where you define a certain perimeter for your child and get notified if your child leaves that area.

Be sure to set expectations that your kids check in at certain times and before leaving or arriving at a new destination. Also, designate trusted emergency contacts and plans for unexpected events and make sure your child knows who you've chosen.


Schedule routine check-ups

Get your child up to date on health screenings, especially vision and hearing tests, before the school year starts. If your child has problems with hearing or vision, it can severely impact their education. Discovering and addressing any issues ahead of time will prevent unnecessary struggles and reduce or eliminate their need for support or accommodations. Young kids often don't realize they have a fixable problem or are unable to articulate their difficulties. So seeing a doctor or professional for screenings is essential to getting young children off to a good start.


Stay up to date on immunizations

Part of setting up a successful school year is ensuring your child and their classmates are protected from preventable diseases with immunizations. Schools are a hotbed for spreading germs and viruses because of the volume of students and lack of personal space and hygiene. Many schools also require certain immunizations. You’ll need to provide proof that your child is up to date unless you have a medical waiver.


Prepare for special needs or accommodations

If your child has special needs related to school and learning, take that into consideration. Review any documented plans that are in place like an IPP. Teachers should have this information if it has already been created for your child. That said, it’s a good idea to refresh yourself on your child's needs and establish support so you can advocate on your child's behalf. Also, plan ahead for special accommodations to help your student at home, too. This may include hiring a tutor or setting a regular homework schedule.


Get school supplies ready

Kids must have the supplies they need to support their learning. Find out what's on your child's supply list and see what you can provide your child or their class. Even if your child's school provides the supplies, it's good to have supplies at home for homework or projects. Ask your child's teacher what would be helpful to have at home. Basic supplies usually include at least a backpack, pens, pencils, paper, and a binder or folders.

If you don't have the financial means to cover your child's supplies, help may be available. Check with your child's school or the public library to see if they offer assistance or know of any programs that can help.


Don’t forget to build excitement!

Even kids who are excited about getting back to school and seeing their classmates often feel some amount of trepidation about a new school year. Going back to school should be a time of celebration and new beginnings. So treat it like a holiday and start a back-to-school family tradition! Have your child choose a special outfit for the first day of school. Talk with your kids about what everyone is excited about and looking forward to in the new school year. Also, make school year resolutions and help your kids set realistic goals. Involve your kids in the process of preparing for the new school year, and find ways to make it fun, to ensure a smooth transition.


Kimberly is a freelance writer. She also owns an online bookshop, Sage Rare & Collectible Books, specializing in out-of-print, scarce, signed, and first editions; fine bindings; ephemera and more at


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