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Top back-to-school tips for parents and guardians!

Tips we wished we knew sooner to avoid school year pitfalls.

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| August 17, 2022
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Hello! As the school year rapidly approaches, here’s a list of tips and reminders we wished we had put into place sooner. We hope it helps you in your time of need!

The team would also like to thank all of the friends, family, and parents that have helped us course correct over the years!

Time for backpacks, rulers, lunchboxes, pencils and… so much more. Not only do you need to check all the supplies off the list, there’s other things to think about when the kids head back to school.

1) Connect with Parents & Kids before school starts:

This is especially helpful for kindergarteners and younger elementary schoolers. Check your school’s PTA website for meet-up and play opportunities that will happen during the summer or before the school year. We found it particularly helpful to join in on play events that were scheduled once teachers were assigned. Kindergarteners could start forming bonds with new classmates so they saw at least a couple of familiar faces on their first day of school.

We found, for older elementary schoolers, knowing which friends would be in their class helped reduce the number of times we heard “I don’t wanna go back to school”. After all, commiserating with your friends about the end of vacation is a time-honored tradition!

2) Meet the Teacher:

Many schools budget this into their beginning of the year rituals, but if not, or your work doesn’t allow you to adhere to the set student/parent conference schedule, don’t be scared to request a virtual meeting or phone meeting that works for both parties.

On some days, your child’s teacher may end up spending more waking hours with your child than you are able to take any opportunity you can to establish a relationship early in the year.

We’ve learned, over the years, to ask direct, but respectful questions tailored to our children’s needs. If your child is more of a visual learner, set the expectation. If your child thrives in a structured routine, say so.

If your parent’s intuition is telling you there may be a future conflict of personalities, check in with parents who may have dealt with the teacher in the past to get another opinion. Again, when available, try to lean on Facebook, your school’s PTA website, or other resources to connect with parents, ask questions, and generally stay informed.

3) Ease into Routine:

It sounds like a no-brainer, but, despite their repeated reassurances, don’t expect your kids, even the older ones, to be able to immediately jump back into the routine.

We now try to use the week before school begins to revert to school year bed and wake-up times. For younger kiddos, we’ve had success with small incentives for hitting your established ready-to-go and bedtimes. We try to ramp up for the week leading up to the first day of school, with the understanding that pre-existing summer activities may derail things a bit.

4) Review Schedules:

Setting expectations for what they’ll encounter during the day can be especially helpful for children heading into pre-k or kindergarten. Establishing a sense of routine can help comfort those who may have some level of anxiety about starting what can be a very new, and stress-inducing experience.

Ask their teacher for a copy of the schedule so you can walk through it with them before bed or school.

Don’t forget to provide them with updates on their after-school activities! Music lessons, sports practices, and other year-round interests can change times, days of the week, and durations when school is back in session.

5) Get Equipped!

Back-to-school sales seem to start earlier every year! If the sales start before you receive your list, check the school’s PTA website, many times they’ll have copies available.

If you have the means, consider getting extras of communal items such as surface wipes, tissue boxes, etc. to help the teachers from having to navigate request forms or from buying them with their own dollars, which as we know, happens all too frequently.

If your school expects your student to be active on a computer, but you don’t have one at your home, and the school doesn’t provide take-home laptop equipment by default, work with the school to find alternative ways to ensure they have access.

Many schools allow for computer access before and after school, while others have some resources, like take-home laptops for kids who don’t have them readily available outside of class.

Community centers, County Libraries, The Boys and Girls Clubs, and some church groups may also have resources specifically set aside for student use, after school or on the weekends.

For dorm-bound college-agers, have them measure and pre-plan their space as much as possible to avoid buying things that don’t match available dimensions, like microwaves, coffee makers, etc., trying to use unapproved appliances, or simply too much stuff!

6) Set Up Your Space

With many parents working from home, it pays to establish an if/then list of workspace options, to help determine who has priority access to which work areas, for how long, and on which days and times.

Many of us have had to play musical workstations, especially on half-day Wednesdays, so setting expectations can make everyone’s lives easier. If possible, have your workstations be as clutter-free as possible. This way you don’t have to explain how your child’s LEGO masterpiece toppled off of their little desk when you needed to hunker into their tiny desk because you had an important client meeting and their room happened to be the quietest option, at the time.

To mitigate cries of “That’s unfair! Why do I have to X, when they get Y!” it can also help to provide a reason to why who gets which spot, such as “Mom needs the quietest spot because she has important phone calls” or “Your brother needs the big table because he’s working on a science project”
If space is at a premium and you are lucky enough to have family nearby, try to set up a schedule where your child can spend the work/school overlap time in a quiet environment.

7) Get Organized

One of our most successful projects was adding a simple stacked basket shelf type thing near the front door. If possible, set up one basket per activity, per child (soccer practice and school for example).

Make it clear that this is where items for each of those activities go, and stick to it from your end of things.

Kid: Where’s my school library book?
Parent: Is it in your school bin?
Kid: No.
Parent: Then I don’t know where it is.
Kid: But today is library day!
Parent: Sorry. We need to go or you’ll miss the bus.

At our house, it took a few of these exchanges, but eventually, things began to consistently appear in baskets without our having to search or nag. If you know your kid(s) can’t or won’t use storage containers of their own volition, then at least you have a reliable, close-to-the-door place to put things as you see, step on, or trip over them.

Even if you don’t teach them a valuable life lesson, you’ll get to retain your sanity and avoid a measure of whining.

If time and attention spans allow, setting out tomorrow’s outfit and preparing tomorrow’s lunch and school bag is definitely something to explore. We’ve had great success with having clothes immediately available and changed into before the kids come to the breakfast table, which starts the day with an easy win.

8) Allergies!

Gone are the days of the mix of art auctions and the NY stock exchange that was the tradition of trading school lunches. Because of the beneficial protections put into place to increase the safety of students with nut allergies kids are no longer permitted to swap lunch items.

So don’t forget this fact and encourage your 9-year-old to “see what they can get” for their bag of chips, or debate lunch options with an “It’s what we have. If you don’t like it, trade with someone who does”.

Be sure to know the specifics of what’s CURRENTLY allowed. Since some schools have moved lunches outdoors with social distancing, they’ve also relaxed some of the constraints. However, others have increased their “No peanuts” policy to no products that “may have been processed in a facility that also processes peanuts” or even “No peanuts, no tree nuts, or items that may have been processed near either. Period”.

Don’t be the parent that gets hit with the shame stick when they are faced with a sad and hungry child who didn’t eat their rule-violation of a lunch, or receive the classic passive-aggressive reminder email. We’re not sure which is worse.