It seems like everyone has mixed feelings about the start of the school year. It’s a bittersweet transition—you can reclaim some of your free time without your children in tow, but the liberty of relaxed schedules, late nights outside, and soaking in sweet and sweaty moments in the sun is hard to say goodbye to. I sometimes equate the start of the school year to Sunday scaries but on a much more intense level.
Similar to the way that being productive on a Sunday can make Monday morning a little bit more manageable, there are a few things you can do to make the shift from summer to school without too much anxiety for both you and your kiddos. It’s time to sharpen your pencils, dust off your notebooks, and tackle the to-do list below before September rolls around. It’ll be here before you know it.
1. Up your organization game
It’s easy to let organization get a bit lax during the summer months. Between packing and unpacking for vacations, camp, and trips to the beach and pool, your home might be feeling a little out of sorts.
Start cleaning shortly before school begins and tackle one room at a time. This is a great way to do an inventory of what your kids need in terms of clothing, lunch boxes, backpacks, school supplies, etc. Getting ready in the morning is a whole lot easier when your kids easily see their favorite outfits, your pantry is stocked for packing lunches, and your whole house is in order.
2. Start setting the alarm
You might have blocked out the horrid sound of an alarm and instead allowed the morning to start with a sunrise and the sweet (ish) sounds of screaming kids ready to tackle the day, but now it’s time to reintroduce your old friend.
Instead of aiming for an earlier bedtime, work your way backwards by starting in the morning. The shift doesn’t have to be abrupt—simply wake up earlier and earlier by 10 minutes every few days until you reach a realistic wake-up time for school. This will gradually make an earlier bedtime feasible too, getting you back into a sleep schedule that’s suitable for the months to come.
3. Bring back books
You know those things with paper pages and words? They sometimes fall to the wayside come summer, but it’s time to get everyone’s brain fired back up again. Even if your child wasn’t assigned a formal summer reading list, setting aside 20 minutes each night to read through a handful of pages is a good way to get back into a reading routine after summer.
Make this process more exciting by taking a trip to the library each week and letting your child pick out a few of their favorite books. When it comes time for homework and assigned reading, your kid will already be in the swing of things.
4. Get comfy with the classroom
This one brings me back to my first days as a college freshman (this was before GPS existed on every phone—man, kids have it so easy now). I remember walking around campus, stopping at each of my classrooms just to make sure I knew my way around and wouldn’t get lost when it was game time.
You can do the same for your child and yourself by familiarizing yourselves with the school location, seeing the classroom and meeting teachers (if this is offered), checking out the playground, and reading through the school calendar and school supply list.
Be sure to also take care of any requirements that need to be completed before the first day, like immunizations and paperwork, and stay up-to-date on your school’s latest COVID guidelines. If your school will be requiring indoor masking, it might be a good time to practice with your child.
The more prepared everyone is before day one, the more confident you’ll feel striding into your kid’s school year.
5. Prep to meal prep
During the summer, it’s much easier to grab food on the go, throw some burgers on the grill, or cook a late dinner and eat whenever it’s ready.
With longer days at school, you’ll have limited time to get dinner on the table before it’s time for bed. Start collecting a list of your family’s favorite quick recipes and slow cooker meals, and maybe even create a meal prep calendar to keep nutritious food flowing.
6. Get familiar with friendly faces
With lots of travel during summer and most socialization happening outside with neighbors, camp companions, and family, now’s the time to set up an outdoor play date or two with some of your child’s classmates.
This is a good way to give them a friend on those first few uncomfortable days of school when everyone is still trying to figure things out and re-establish relationships that were lost during summer months.
New to the area or the school? Seek out local online parent groups where users often post about playground meetups or share other community meet-and-greet opportunities.
7. Set realistic expectations
Just like any transition, change is scary and uncomfortable for everyone. It might take a few weeks to feel completely adjusted.
Talk through concerns with your kids and let them know that whatever they’re feeling is normal and OK. Even though it might be hard to let go of summer, there’s a lot of positivity that comes out of the more routine-based schedule during the school year.