The Back-to-School Survival Guide

Back-to-school madness can seem like a nightmare for both you and your child, especially if neither one of you is ready to wake up from your summer vacation dreams. From loading up on school supplies to researching healthy lunch ideas to helping your child find clothes that fit their unique personality and style, there’s a lot to do before the first bell rings.

The stresses don’t go away once your child is finally seated in class. The first week is a transition period for your children that parents often tend to overlook. Leading school psychologists say that even kids who are looking forward to the coming school year, have plenty of adjusting to do.

There are ways that as parents we can help our kids with these adjustments, here are 10 Back-to-school survival ideas to help both your kids, and you to cope with the changes.

#1 – Prepare Your Child for New School Year Changes

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,”, and preparing your kids for the challenges they will face can be huge. The best way to prepare them is just to talk to them. Try telling them some stories from when you went to school. Even if the stories are about the hard stuff, seeing that you survived, can help them realize that they can too.

Ask them how they feel about the new school year and what they’re looking forward to. Talk about their fears and expectations, and try to keep things light. Sometimes just seeing you joking and laughing can be all they need to see to put their fears to rest.

#2 – Attend ‘Back to School’ Night

Back to school night is something that many schools across the country are embracing, and as Marian Wilde at points out, they have become a valuable part of the transition process into the new school year.

Marian stated, “On this night, your child’s teacher explains their goals for the class and for your child. They’ll share information about their teaching style and methodology, how they grade… [and] you’ll find out what supplies your child will need for the year and what projects are coming up.”

Along with all of this valuable information, you child can meet the teacher themselves, get acquainted with the room they will be calling home for the next year, and possibly even reconnect with some familiar friends from previous years.

#3 – Practice Your Back-to-School Routine

If you want your back-to-school routine to be as stress-free as possible, don’t leave it up to chance. Try a few practice runs before summer vacation officially ends. Knowing how long the prep process takes, and taking in a few variables can take a lot of the stress out of those first few days.

The goal for a successful back-to-school routine is to turn your actions into habits. According to success coach Brian Tracy, it can take anywhere from 14 to 21 days to develop a medium-complexity habit. The sooner new routines become second nature the better.

#4 – Adjust Their Bedtime Gradually

Between family vacations and other summer activities, if your house is anything like mine, bedtimes over summer break will become a fluid concept. Getting your kids back on track with sleep schedules will be easier if you do it gradually. Start with just a small amount of time and little by little work your way back to the time your child needs to go to bed for school.

5 – Stock Up on Quick, Healthy Snacks

Even with all the preparing in the world, there will always be those days when you or your kids get a late start. For those days, as well as for after school before homework, it’s a good idea to have some healthy snacks on hand. Some of the snacks I keep in my ‘snack box’ are:

Having these healthy snacks available and easy for your kids to find will take stress off of you, and put your mind at ease about your kids healthy eating habits as well.

#6 – Focus on the Back-to-School Positives

Back-to-school means a lot of changes, some good, and some challenging. We, as parents can help our kids to find the silver lining in the middle of all these changes.

Help them focus on the positives, like new friends, new clothes, extracurricular activities, school events, and field trips. If you’re excited about these things, they will be too.

#7 – Teach Your Child How to Make Friends

Whether your child is in a brand-new school or is returning to their old school, making new friends can make all the difference in their adjusting process. It doesn’t always come naturally though, but it can help your children feel less alone in this new environment. Sometimes breaking the ice is all it takes for kids to spark up a new friendship. Clinical psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore has some great ideas on teaching your kids how to approach other children for the first time.

#8 – Empathize With Your Child

It can be easy to forget what it felt like to dive into a new school year. All the fears and anxieties are very real for your kids, just as they were for you. And although you don’t want your kids to hang on to them, you shouldn’t dismiss their fears. Empathizing with your kids so they know that you understand can help to diminish some of those fears. Again, telling your kids some of your experiences and showing them that you survived through all those fears can reassure them quite a bit.

#9 – Ask Specific Questions About Your Child’s First Week Experience

Often, no matter how much we speak with our children beforehand, they will still struggle. But it is easy to get a one-word answer to the old question ‘How was your day?’ that won’t always tell the whole story. Asking specific questions and responding directly to their answers can sometimes dig up problems that you can help your kids through. Questions like ‘What was your favorite part of the day?’ or ‘Did you make any new friends?’ can be all your kids need to spark up conversations that will inform you better as to how well they are actually adjusting.

#10 – Give Them Something to Look Forward To

The first week of school can be a rough one, especially as you and your child are adjusting to new schedules. To make the efforts a little more bearable, by putting a little light at the end of your tunnel. After all, rewarding yourself and your kids for a job well done, can make all the work worthwhile. A movie night, or just a trip to get ice cream can be the perfect end to a pretty stressful first week.

Whatever you do to prepare for the start of a new school year, keep one thing in mind. We all went through it, and survived, our kids will too. Just make sure they know that you are there for them above all else, and together you can choose to make the new school year an epic one.


List of all links used to complete research for this article: