Make the first day of school better for everyone with back-to-school tips from experts.

Does the word “school” throw your child into a panic? Do back-to-school ads make your stomach churn? It doesn’t have to be this way. Early preparation and rehearsals are just a few ways to avoid back-to-school meltdowns!

More than 4.4 million school-age children experience some level of stress when returning to school each year. Anxiety often starts building a month or so before the first school bell rings. Students worry about getting lost, packing the right back-to-school supplies, making friends and doing homework.

Parents also face plenty of back-to-school stress. As if the cost of clothing and school fees wasn’t enough, dealing with a child’s insecurities can be overwhelming. You need a strategy and guidance to avoid sleepless nights and rivers of tears.

Start planning now with a few back-to-school tips before tummy aches and tantrums become routine. Read what the experts say about preparing your child and you for the first day of school.

10 back-to-school tips to ace the first day of school

little girl walking with backpack

Since you’re likely still sprinting to baseball games, swim championships and a zillion other summer activities, I’ve gathered some great back-to-school tips for you. Here’s what the top psychologists and parenting experts advise:

1. Start a school bedtime schedule a week in advance

As the big day approaches, it’s time to say farewell to late-night movies and morning sleep-ins. Set bedtime hours that are appropriate for each child in your family. Most school-age children (ages 6-13) need nine to 12 hours of sleep per night. Teens can handle a little less with eight to 10 hours.

I personally think it’s easier to put kids to bed 15 minutes earlier each night the week before school started. They seem to adapt better when it’s a gradual process.

Keep in mind that some kids need more or less sleep than others. Adjust each child’s schedule accordingly. You know your children’s sleep needs better than anyone.

2. Create a list for the morning routine

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Chaos is not the way to start the day. Make a list for yourself and your children so everyone knows what’s expected of them each morning. It’s very empowering! Kids are often more motivated when they have a list to follow. Plus, this teaches them to be responsible for themselves.

Laminate each person’s list and hang them where they won’t be missed!

A few basic ideas to put on your child’s list:

  • Take a shower
  • Brush your teeth
  • Fix your hair
  • Get dressed
  • Eat breakfast
  • Make your bed
  • Pack your book bag

Rehearse the routine one or two days before school starts. Wake your children at the scheduled time and instruct them to complete the tasks on their list. This will help you determine if their bedtime or wake-up time needs to be adjusted before the school year begins.

3. Perform a dry run for drop-off and pickup

A week or so before kids are back in school, go through the motions of dropping them off and picking them up at the end of the day. Spend some time inside the school and on the playground, if allowed, to help your kiddo get familiar with the environment. This is especially important if the building or school district is new to the child.

If the school is open, rehearse by having your child enter the classroom while you wait in the hallway. This simple action will make it easier for your child to say goodbye on the first day.

4. Talk to your child and listen to their concerns

Set aside some quiet time to talk one-on-one with each of your children about their first day of school jitters. Encourage them to ask questions, even silly ones that can lighten the mood. Don’t belittle their fears; offer solutions.

Don’t be afraid to share your own first-day-of-school stories, good and bad. Kids need to know that everyone experiences challenges and setbacks.

5. Schedule a play date with classmates

Ask parents of two or three classmates to join your child for a play date at your house or a local park. Keep it simple; let the kids casually hang out without a lot of distractions.

A familiar face on the first day of school can make all the difference for your son or daughter. Knowing your child will have friends on day one is also a comforting thought for parents.

6. Manage your own anxiety

Kids can sense when parents are stressed or have concerns. They won’t feel comfortable heading back to school if you show signs of distress.

As early as possible, iron out any issues that are weighing on your mind such as carpooling, after-school daycare or child custody arrangements. Don’t spread yourself too thin or make unrealistic goals; commit to a schedule you know is doable.

Parents need to take care of themselves, mentally and physically, if they want to help their children succeed. Feeling stressed? Get a massage or meet a friend to calm your nerves. See a professional if needed. Your kids need you at your best!

7. Purchase school supplies early

customized aluminum water bottle at a park with school logo

Be sure to shop early for all the school supplies your child needs. This will give you time to double-check the list prior to the first day of school.

If the school district requires a certain style notebook or journal, do your best to find it. No child wants to disappoint the teacher by bringing the wrong supplies to class. If you have trouble tracking down a specific folder or packs of colored pencils, contact the teacher or other parents for assistance.

Let your child help you shop for school supplies. It will ease them into the idea of heading back to school. It could also prompt a meaningful conversation about the upcoming year and personal goals.

8. Establish good communication with your child’s teacher

Get to know your child’s teacher by introducing yourself before the start of school or during the first few weeks. Spend a few minutes alone to discuss any pertinent information you believe is important to share about your child.

Keep the teacher’s contact information handy but don’t abuse it. Good teacher/parent communication is key to your child’s education; annoying calls and texts are not. Respect the teacher’s personal time.

9. Sign up for all school notifications

Most schools today have several methods of keeping parents informed. Check your district’s website and/or contact your child’s teacher to find out the ways information is distributed to parents.

Signing up for school alerts can keep you up to date on school delays and cancellations, parent-teacher conferences, after-school activities and numerous other events. The information is usually sent to parents via cellphone or email after enrolling in the notification system.

Check your school’s website periodically to ensure you’re up to date on happenings within your district. It’s also a great idea to like and follow the school’s social media pages.

10. Plan a special farewell summer event

Instead of brooding over the end of summer, celebrate the adventure ahead! Say goodbye to summer and hello to an exciting new school year with a special party. Plan a backyard BBQ or a fun pool and picnic event.

This is an excellent way for your child to get reacquainted with their classmates (see #5). It’s also a great opportunity for parents to engage with other parents for support in the coming months.

Keep the atmosphere lively and positive with games and prizes for the kids. Let the children help create the itinerary for the day.

Give each guest a personalized T-shirt designed to commemorate the event! Keep the theme going by using the same artwork on custom cups, party sunglasses and other items everyone can take home.

Let Totally Promotional help you start the new year right!

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Properly preparing for a new school year is important for parents, students and educators. Our team at Totally Promotional is ready to help!

Customized school supplies for students and staff can be used as rewards, incentives and spirit items. Each year we help school officials, club presidents, coaches and teachers get the products they need to inspire students.

Browse our website for everything you need to make the first day of school better than ever!

Sources: National PTA, Scholastic, Parents and Child Mind Institute

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Shelley Grieshop is a former newspaper journalist who earned more than a dozen Associated Press awards for her in-depth research and writing skills. In May 2016, she joined Totally Promotional as a creative writer. She currently writes company blogs about branding, marketing, logos, wedding planning and much more. One of her life goals is to teach people when to use hyphens and apostrophes.

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