Ways to Help Your Child Mentally Prepare for School

The last part of summer is a time of transition for families as everyone gets ready to readjust their routine to the rhythm of another school year. While some kids can’t wait to return to the classroom, this time of year can cause a little more anxiety for some and outright dread for others. We put together a few tips to help mentally prepare your kids for the upcoming school year so they can put their best foot forward in their new classroom. 

Talk about it

Talk early and often. Don’t leave it until the week before school starts to ask them how they feel about the upcoming school year. Sure, it might feel like a buzzkill to start making them think about school in the middle of summer, but at least you’re opening the door for them to voice their concerns. That way, you can work together on a plan to handle any of those concerns in the weeks leading up to the start of school. 

Ask open-ended questions about how they’re feeling, what they’re excited about, their goals for the upcoming year, and who they are excited to see again. Respond attentively, and no matter their answers, try to use a nonjudgmental tone. The goal is to foster a sense of open communication so they can bring up any issues or concerns going forward.

Start getting the family back on a schedule

Go slowly and give yourself about a month before school starts to get back on a schedule. If your kids are way off schedule, for example, they’re staying up until midnight in the summer and need to be in bed at 9 pm on a school night, immediately returning to a 9 o’clock bedtime might be pretty jarring and hard to stick to. Start by shifting bedtimes back in one-hour increments. Then you can work on starting to shift their wake-up times as well so that by the time school starts, they’re accustomed to going to bed and waking up at the proper time. Talk to your kids and get the whole family’s buy-in on why sleep is so important and why a good night of sleep matters, and stay consistent. If you slip up, it happens, but try to get back on schedule as soon as possible.

Take the kiddos' school supply shopping with you

Kids love to be able to personalize their own things. Kids of any age will be excited to pick out things that they like, whether that’s a reusable water bottle or shoes for gym class. They’ll go to school with a better attitude if they’re looking forward to using their new laptop sleeve they picked out or their pencil box with their favorite cartoon character on it. Check out a few must-haves for the new school year.

Go to the orientation and meet the teacher

If your child’s school offers an orientation or a meet-the-teacher night, giving your child a chance to connect with their teacher before the chaos of the first day of school can help ease some of those fears of the unknown. Let them practice navigating the path to the classroom, and the bathroom, finding their locker and making sure they know how to use their lunch PIN number or locker combination. All of these little practice runs will make it seem less overwhelming when they have to do it on the first day of school. 

Be reassuring

Be the voice that reassures them they can do it. Don’t downplay their fears, but reassure them that whatever they’re going through, they can make it through it. Point out all the positives about the school, show them the things they’re good at, things they have to look forward to. Remind them that even if things feel uncertain, they will get better as long as they give it a chance.

Start a back-to-school tradition

Maybe your tradition is going out for dinner as a family after the first day of school, decorating your driveway with sidewalk chalk, or having donuts at the bus stop. Or maybe it’s going shopping for new school clothes and supplies together. Whatever the tradition, make it something fun and encouraging that they’ll look forward to. Something to celebrate new beginnings and celebrate the start of another great school year.