Back to School Tips

Summer is coming to an end, stores are in full swing for school supply sales, and likely your teen is unhappy. Going back to school can feel like a real bummer for teens – less free time, no sleeping in, demanding school work – but taking steps to get ready can make it a smoother and happier transition from summer to school.

Go Back-to-School Shopping Together

Sometimes all a child needs to get excited about going back to school are some school supplies and new clothes. Make it a fun outing to go shopping for the things they need (get your teen’s supply list from the school in advance) and the things they want (let your teen follow the fashion trends that fit their own personality, so long as they do not offend your values). Finish the outing off with lunch or dinner out!

Throw a Back-to-School Party

Everyone loves a party! Greet the new school year with a bash for your teen! For tweens, invite kids who will be in some of your child’s classes so they can spend time together before the first day. Make it low-key – order pizza, host a whipped cream pie-eating contest, or offer a water balloon fight. Send the youth home with a goody bag filled with school-related items including pens, pencils, erasers, a folder, notebook paper, and some candy! For older teens, simply allow them to have a party at your house with their closest friends – let them decide food and the activities.

Get Back Into a Routine

Even youth thrive on a routine, so before school has started, sit down with your teen and establish one that works for your whole family. Set up a schedule for the morning that gets everyone out the door on time with as little stress as possible and a schedule for after school that ensures there is enough time to complete homework and participate in extracurricular activities. Be careful that you do not overcommit your family with many activities that will be hard to reign in later.

One big issue for teens is their sleep schedule. Many teens prefer to sleep in during the day and stay up late at night during the summer, but when school starts, they will need to adjust. This transition can make school much more difficult if it’s done suddenly, leading to problems concentrating. Have them start by gradually going to sleep earlier and waking up in time for school in the mornings about three weeks before school starts. It takes around three weeks for the body to adjust to a new sleep schedule, and preparing for early mornings helps students be more alert when school does start. Decide on a wake time together based on allowing time for eating breakfast, and then get them an alarm clock.

Take a School Tour

Do not skip the orientations and open houses before school begins, even if your child has already been a student there. Visit your teen’s classrooms, meet the teachers and learn the layout of the school. Your teen will feel more comfortable about going back to school if they have a good sense of where everything is located (e.g. classes, cafeteria, gym, lockers, etc.)

Create a Homework Space

Students who are organized and have a useful study area are more likely to get better grades. Before school begins, work with your teen to establish a space in your home designated for their homework. It could be a desk in their room, or an area in your home office, or any other quiet location with ample room. The more involved you make your teen in setting up their homework area, the happier they will be about going to school and studying at home. De-clutter the area they choose, stock it with school supplies (notepads, pencils, pens, highlighters, note cards, binders, stapler, etc.), and organize a project bin for their work. Let them decorate it to make it their own.

Tackle Time Management

Summer gets youth out of the habit of paying attention to a schedule. Help your teen gear up for a successful year by teaching them some effective time management techniques. Place a large calendar at their homework station and show them how to plot out their various extracurricular activities, assignment deadlines, test dates, and their own project goals for completing pieces of large school assignments. Remind them that routines can make things easier. Encourage them to establish a regular time for their homework. By studying at the same time, same place every day, your teen will actually train their brain to be more focused, which will let them finish their work faster.

“Last Supper of Summer” or “Back-to-School Breakfast”

Finding ways to make the dreaded first day more fun and celebratory is a great way to start the year on the right foot. Consider hosting a “last supper of summer” or “back to school breakfast” at your house. Have the children pick their favorite food for the menu – be flexible and remember that anything goes. Decorate the table with a school theme or colors.

Fun “Night Before School” Preparations

Make it an annual tradition to prepare everything for school the night before. School supplies should be organized and distributed.  Backpacks should be packed and waiting by the door. Lunches should be made. First day of school clothes should be decided on and laid out. The yearly routine provides teens stability and helps calm any nerves, plus, it provides a calm morning for the first day – no rushing around in a panic!

Final Thoughts…

Whenever people face a new place or new situation, they naturally feel nervous and excited. Remind your teen that they are not the only student who is feeling uneasy or unhappy about returning to school. Acknowledge their feelings, but also point out the positives, such as seeing old friends or meeting new ones. Refresh their memory of positive things at school from the previous year. Remind them of other times they were nervous about and how everything worked out really well.

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