This post is written by Katie Bugbee, the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com.
Summer is coming to a close and the sound of school bells are in the near distance. But before we dream of first day photos and plan lunch box notes, here are nine tips to prep kids – and yourselves for the start of a new year.
- Stay Sharp. We’ve all heard of summer slump. Many of us have even experienced it ourselves. Avoiding it doesn’t mean the summer has to be full of math classes and flash cards. But educational games can keep the brain active and engaged.
- Line Up After-School Care. Whether keeping kids at school for an extended day or hiring an after-school sitter, you will want to make sure all care is lined up and the kids are aware of the new plan. If the sitter is a new face, plan some transition time with her and the kids a week or two before school starts.
- Watch for Signs of Anxiety. If nightmares, poor sleeping and new eating patterns or develop, your child might have some school anxiety. He may also talk about a friend who is scared of school, become snippy, angry, depressed or frequently ask questions about school. Most anxiety is normal, but a drastic change in your child (like not sleeping or eating) should be brought to a doctor’s attention.
- Go Over the Route and Routine. During the last two weeks of summer, start getting back into a school day routine. Wake up and get ready in the time you will need to be out the door. Start a typical bedtime schedule as well. Also make sure kids know the route they’ll go to school, and play on the school playground to get used to being back on campus.
- Create a Visual Family Calendar. Kids love seeing their days, weeks and months laid out visually, and even crossing the days out as they pass. Create a calendar system — with icons — so each child can see which activities he has that day, who is picking her up, and when big tests and papers are coming. You can also add spaces for your own date nights and travel, so everyone is kept up to speed.
- Shop Lightly. You don’t want to push summer out the door with heavy shopping outings. If kids get excited about clothes or new binders, take them with you. Otherwise, buy some necessities and keep them stored away until needed.
- Find Friendly Faces. Plan play dates with kids from your class list. If the school hasn’t shared the list, and won’t until the week before school, find ways to involve your child with other local kids her age. This way, the class, the bus and the hallways will be full of familiar faces.
- Get Psyched. It’s important to help guide your child to think about the positive. Talk about the things he loves about school: the sports, the teachers, new clothes. Share fun stories from last year, or if this is the first year, hype the fun activities you know he’ll do that year.
- Stay Alert. The first month of school might be fun and games, and a happy child will mean very relieved parents. But stay on alert. A month or two in, the requirements will ramp up and the social circles can start to build. This is when you’ll need to watch for signs of bullying or that extra homework help may be needed.
* * * * *
Katie Bugbee is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com. A busy working mother of two, she’s an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter.