Do’s and Don’ts of Back to School Prep

Summer is quickly coming to an end, and that means it’s almost time to head back to school. Here are a few tips and tricks to make the process a little bit easier.

Do start getting your kids back into a regular sleeping routine. If you’re like a lot of us, summer means relaxing bedtimes (and getting up times). Which is great for lazy summer days, not so good when the alarm goes off at 6am, and you have to get kids up and moving, so they get to the bus on time. We start about a week before school officially starts.

Don’t buy school supplies until you have been given the list of what is actually needed. For several years, we dutifully hit the stores in early to mid-August, determined to have everything that the kids could possibly need for that first week of school. We always ended up with way more than was needed, and usually with tons of stuff they didn’t. The teachers will send home a list (sometimes several of them), detailing what students will need for each of their classes. Wait. The sales will still be on until the end of September.

Do get a little clothes shopping done. Especially shoes. You know they’re going to need at least two pairs, and the sandals and sneakers they’ve been wearing all summer are not going to cut it.

Don’t buy a new backpack or lunch bag (or pencil case, calculator, etc.) unless your kid absolutely needs one. We used to buy new backpacks every year, even if the old one was still perfectly usable. Then we got smart. First, we started buying better quality backpacks, so they would last longer, and then we stopped falling into the “oh, it’s back to school, we must buy everything new” pitfall. Same deal goes for lunch bags and pencil cases. (It’s also more environmentally friendly-all those things end up in landfills.)

Do take a walk (or drive) over to the school if your child/teen is starting at a new one in the fall. Walk around the school grounds, and if possible, take a tour inside the school itself. Starting school can be a cause of major anxiety for a lot of kids. Do everything you can to show them that they are embarking on an exciting adventure. Talk up teachers, new friends, and the new things they will learn. Encourage them to tell you what, if anything, bothers them about this new chapter in their lives.

Do start (start only!) to think about lunches and snacks for school. Find out if your child’s tastes have changed over the summer. Remind them that for elementary school aged children, peanut butter is a definite no-go at school (rules relax once you get to the high school level-a fact that made our four kids take nothing but peanut butter sandwiches for the first month when they started at their school). Ask them to come up with some ideas of what they might like to eat (this one is always dicey, since they might tell you they like something one day, and decide they hate it the next-ah, the joys of parenthood!). Let them help plan menus (within reason, of course).

Do remember that these years go by really fast, and before you know it, you will be sitting at your child’s high school graduation, and thinking back to the first day of Junior Kindergarten with a catch in your throat. For now, relax, and enjoy the rest of your summer.