Back-to-School season is generally filled with a mix of excitement and worry. 

On the one hand, the school year stretches ahead as a blank slate for new experiences and success. The kids are excited to see their friends again, and many enjoy the learning and social opportunities at school. Parents are often ready for the structure and routines of school, and they are cautiously optimistic about the fresh start. 

On the other hand, Back-to-School can be a stressful time as well. Kids worry that they won’t like their teacher, or they’ll be separated from friends. They wonder if they’ll struggle in certain subjects or be able to keep up. Parents get anxious about new bus routes, hectic mornings, angst-filled homework sessions, and whether their child is prepared for this next level. 

A little preparation can minimize the stress and maximize your child’s chance of academic and personal success. Here are three things you can do to ensure a smooth start to the school year.

Organize Your Home
You can reduce stress and chaos by making sure there are specific places designated for school gear and school work. For example:

  • Where do you want forms and permission slips to go?
  • Where should backpacks and lunchboxes go at the end of the day?
  • Where should your child do homework? Does your child have the right supplies accessible?
  • Is there a family calendar accessible to everyone?
  • And most important — have you communicated these organizational strategies to your kids?

Spending a little time to talk through organization and routines will help everyone keep the home organized and running smoothly.

Communicate with the School
Most parents go into each school year with certain hopes and fears for their child. Maybe your child has always struggled with reading, and you’re hoping for some extra attention there. Maybe your child feels shy at school and would like to make friends but isn’t sure how. Maybe your child has health issues that need support at school. Maybe your child is already overwhelmed at the prospect of a big high school year of AP classes and college applications.  Have you talked to your child’s teacher(s) or guidance counselor about these concerns? When parents get upset with the school, it’s often because an expectation has gone unmet. So start the year by communicating your hopes and expectations in a clear, respectful and collaborative way. Simple concerns may just require an email, while more complicated matters might need a conference. You are your child’s best advocate, so don’t wait to speak up.

Be Mindful of Your Child’s Health
Your child’s mental, social, and emotional performance at school is largely driven by how he or she feels physically. Are you setting your child up for success? Think about:

  • Does your child get enough sleep? 
  • Does your child eat a well-balanced diet, including a nutritious breakfast? What gets packed in the lunchbox or purchased at school?
  • Does your child have time to run and play outside? Is he or she getting enough exercise? 
  • Have you worked with your child’s doctor to ensure that chronic health conditions (allergies, physical disabilities, medications) won’t interfere with your child’s academic performance?

Taking some time to think through these issues is an important way to “set the stage” for a great school year. 

And if your child struggles academically despite your best efforts, consider calling in some back-up with a professional tutor. 

What are your best Back-to-School strategies?