Back to School

0811_SchoolAlas, the lazy days of summer are approaching a remorseful end. Sleeping late, lounging around the house, sitting by the pool and impromptu play dates will soon be a fond memory. But these changes can cause stress for both children and parents. Before embarking on this year's back-to-school experience, take these tips into consideration.

Back-to-school shopping

Before you hit the stores for supplies, wardrobes and must-have accessories for, think about these money-saving and convenient tips.

  • Search for bargains all summer — back-to-school sales seem to begin before the school year even ends!
  • Look for state "tax free holidays", often held in the slow retail days of summer, to save on clothing, electronics and supplies.
  • Hold a swap party with friends and neighbors — last year's barely used supplies or lightly worn clothes in your closet may be brand new and exciting for someone else.
  • Check out consignment shops — sell last year's stuff; get a bargain on this year's stuff.
  • Use credit cards with reward incentives.
  • Stock up on basics for the whole year — paper, pencils, glue sticks, folders, etc. Grab extras when they're on sale and stash them away for later in the school year when supplies run low or items need refreshing.
  • Resist the urge to buy the trendiest design. What seems cool in July may be out of fashion by September.

Establish the routine

A smooth transition from lazy days of summer to the regimented school routine begins with a plan. Here's what to consider to start the new year on the right foot.

  • Begin a bedtime routine at least a week before school starts. Even if the kids aren't falling asleep earlier, they can be in bed reading a book or doing another quiet activity at the same time every night.
  • Get kids used to the idea of waking up to an alarm. Beginning the week before school, set the alarm for an hour later than it will go off when school starts. Each day (or every other day), set it for 10-15 minutes earlier until the kids are getting up at their regular school time.
  • Make a list of tasks that need to be done every day — who needs to do them and when. Be sure to involve all parties — young children and spouses too — when creating the list. Then break it down into individual tasks for each person. Practice this new routine beginning a few days before school.
  • Prepare the night before. Do as much as you can at night to avoid unexpected changes in routine in the morning. Make lunches and snacks as you're cleaning up after dinner. Pack backpacks before bed, perhaps when homework has been completed. Place instruments or sports equipment that have to go to school with the backpack. Lay out clothes the night before. Think through the morning and prepare as much ahead of time as you can.
  • Stay organized. Have a clip, slot, clipboard or other designated item to hold together all like-information that must be kept: announcements about upcoming events, permission slips, birthday invitations, etc. You decide if you need one for each family member or if you categorize by type of information. The important thing is that info that has to be saved can be quickly retrieved.

Ease the Stress

Consider the two big changes kids are facing with a new school year: a more regimented routine and new environmental factors (new classroom, teacher, friends, etc.). Children don't always know how to articulate their stress and uncertainty, so help them to picture every step of the new school year.

  • Describe what will be different about the new school year. Consider the changes they will be experiencing: new teacher, classroom, lessons and routines. They may also have a change in routine that involves transportation — riding the bus, carpooling, walking. Many children don't know how to articulate what makes them nervous so help them find the words to talk about it. Give him or her the opportunity to ask questions and point out the exciting aspects and benefits of the new routine.
  • Talk about the new routine in detail. "We'll wake up at 6:30, have breakfast by 7:00 and be out the door by 7:30. We'll pick up Jenny and I'll drop you both off at school by 7:45. You'll walk to your classroom..." This will help children picture the routine before they are expected to follow it. It will also prompt them for questions to ask.

With a little advance planning, thoughtful communication and loving attention, the transition from summer to new school routine can be peaceful for the whole family. And really, doesn't everyone crave a little routine after so much relaxation?