Simple Tips for a Successful Launch to a New School Year

Getting ready for back to school is a very stressful time for both parents and children. Stress has a major impact on our mental health and overall wellness. The good news is a little preparation can make a big difference. Start off with these easy back to school tips and tricks to keep your house running smooth in those early mornings; and don’t forget - laugh, listen, give hugs and most importantly, be relaxed and organized to help set the tone. 

Set up a bedtime and wake-up routine well in advance
It is best to establish bedtimes and wake-up times 1-2 weeks in advance. By the time school starts, everyone, including parents, are back on the right sleeping schedule. Children find comfort in routine and having stress-free kids makes for stress-free parents. By creating a schedule for doing homework, going to bed, waking up, eating breakfast and taking showers, you can make the daily routine less chaotic for everyone.

Turn off technology
Get your child an alarm clock and do not allow them to take their iPhone/smart phone to bed with them. Phones should be left to charge, on silent, in a different room. It is impossible to function without a good night’s sleep, especially while children are growing.

Fuel up
Make sure to leave time for a healthy breakfast; sit down together so everyone eats. Ask your children what they would like to eat, be flexible and creative with breakfast options. To help save time, prepare some fresh fruit and put out cereal bowls the night before.   

Organize clothing
Start by donating any clothing that your children have outgrown, and then organize what is left by season. Next, decide together what new items are needed to be ready for the new school year. Let your child pick at least two outfits (they can mix & match) that they feel amazing wearing, being confident and comfortable will help their first few days be a success.  Make sure you do your homework and find out if any clothing items are not permitted at your child’s school.  There needs to be a balance between trendy, comfort and age appropriateness.  A great tip is to set out their clothes the night before, including matching socks and hair accessories.

Plan healthy lunches and snacks
Establishing healthy eating routines prior to school starting will help create healthy habits. Take time to plan meals and make sure you have the groceries you need at home. Talk to your children about staying hydrated and drinking water throughout the school day. Find out the break schedule at your child’s school; do they get two breaks to eat? If so, make sure there are items for both. Pack protein-rich snacks and lunches, balanced with fruits, vegetables, and grains to ensure that your children have the energy and brainpower to make it through their school days. As much as variety is nice, it is more important to pack foods they will actually eat. Don’t forget to pack paper napkins and spoons, a water bottle and maybe a hand written note.

Don’t overfill backpacks
Include items other than just school supplies in your child’s backpack. Depending on your child’s age there should be a small sun tan lotion (in a zip lock bag so it doesn’t leak), a small compact umbrella, band aids for small cuts or blisters from new shoes, $5.00 for emergencies, a list with phone numbers, a house key, lip balm, a hat, and any other personal items your child may need. However, keep in mind that their backpacks should not be overfilled or too heavy. Pack travel size options and remember to remove any unnecessary items as the seasons change.

Set up a launching/staging area
Establish a central storage location for everything related to school, including backpacks, supplies, new shoes etc. Try to keep this area free of clutter and other non-school items so you and your children can easily find what you need, when you need it.

Update medical records and emergency contact information
Make sure teachers and administrators have a complete list of any medical concerns regarding your children, including allergies. Also, be sure that all emergency contacts are up to date. Find out how your child’s teachers like to communicate (some have school email addresses) and ask them to let you know if homework is not being done on time or if other concerns arise.

Ask your kids about their concerns
The start of school is exciting but it can also bring about anxiety—especially when it comes to the unknown. Take a few minutes to ask your children what they are most looking forward to during the school year, and what things may be worrying them.  Listen and try to address concerns and create an action item for each concern. For example, if they are worried they will sleep in, set up an extra alarm clock or reassure them that you will be up early and will wake them in plenty of time. 

Plan and prepare for drop-offs and pick-ups
These logistics can be the hardest to manage especially for working parents. Research if the school has drop-off and pick-up zones and rules. What time does supervision start before school if your child is old enough to walk by themselves?  If possible, take the walk to school together the week before school starts to remove some of the mystery. If they are riding their bike, they need a helmet and bike lock. Where and what time is the school bus pick up and drop off?  Go over the rules of the bus with your child. For some children, the school bus trip is their favourite part of their day but for others it is often where they are bullied. 

Talk to your kids about bullying
Research shows that one in three kids experience bullying at some point in their schooling—and in the increasingly digital world, the consequences can be extreme. Make sure your children understand the right way to treat their peers, and when to speak up if they see someone else being bullied. Also, make sure they know they can talk to you at any time about how they feel and what they experience at school.