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Dust Off the Backpack

Time to buy an apple. One for the teacher and one to pack in your kid's school lunch. The lazy days of summer are giving way to the swirl of back-to-school. New teachers, bus rides,

sack lunches, new friends, immunizations and…homework. Ugh!!

Whether you are taking your child to their first day of kindergarten or dropping off your senior for the last time, the start of a new school year is bittersweet. I can't promise the year will be hassle-free, as a matter of fact I can almost guarantee some hassles :-) so here are a few ideas to ease the transitions from summer and get you started on your back-to-school list.

The Weeks Before:

Mark The Days Until School Starts

Kids need adjustment time to get back into class mode. Cross off days on the family calendar or make a paper chain out of construction paper, and remove one link each day.

End The Summer With A Bang

Ease nerves and create long lasting memories by creating a fun family tradition to celebrate a great summer and the start of a great school year. Host a Last Day of Summer Party, let your child have a few friends over or simply plan a family outing. Do something to commemorate the transition.

Create A Classroom

Hold mock classes. Set up desks and chairs. Let your kids write classroom rules and then practice the rules; raising your hand, lining up for lunch' etc. You can even take turns being the teacher and student. Practice some how-to skills: fasten and unfasten their knapsack and lunch box, undo their clothes so they can go to the bathroom, hang their coat on a hook, recite their telephone number.

Take A Fun Field Trip

Many of us hoped to visit local children's museums, historical sights, science centers, etc., during warm weather, but the summer got away from us. Ignite the spirit of learning by visiting a place that's enjoyable and intellectually challenging.

Visit School Grounds

If you are allowed, walk around inside the building. Find your child’s classroom, the bathrooms and have them try out the playground. Even if your child has gone to the school before. Walking the halls and talking about the years gone by is a great way to connect with your kids, while reminding them what to be ready for in the year to come. Don’t forget to show your child where you'll pick them up at the end of the day.

Connect With Classmates

Invite friends from last year over for lunch. If a class list is available reach out to new kids and include them. It is a great way to set your child up for an easy transition into school socialization.

Read Every Day

Maybe you kept up on your reading over the summer and maybe, if you are like me, you forgot more days than you remembered. Either way, make reading a priority in the days leading up to school. Read together or talk about the books that your kids are reading. Also, make sure they see you reading and tell them about your books. Example is a great teacher.

Dedicate Some TV-free Time

Homework is coming! Since many of us are battling technology in our homes, start getting into a routine now by having screen-free time during after-school hours. Use your no-tech time to talk about your day, write in your journal or choose a learning activity. As school get closer have your kids help you create After School Rules. For example, before technology is allowed they must: read, finish homework or play outside for 30 minutes.

Play Board, Word Or Number Games

Prepare your kids for the start of classes. Playing games is a great way to keep you child’s mind engaged and focused on building learning skills while having fun together.

Teach Consent For Your Child’s Body And Respect For Others’

Empower kids to set boundaries with their own bodies. Early education about privacy and consent are vital for social-emotional skills. Arm children with the ability to advocate for their own bodies and respect the bodies of others. Practice at home by letting them know you don’t want toy dinosaurs in your hair even though they find it fun or that they have to ask you before they climb on your back for a piggyback ride. This can also help them protect themselves and listen when peers says no touching. Older kids also need to be reminded that they are the master of their own bodies. Give them authority to respect themselves and others.

Doctors Checkup For You Child

Book your appointment right away. Make sure you know what the requirements are for your school and If your child will be entering preschool or kindergarten, you may need to be sure they are up-to-date on their immunizations.

Make Sure School Paperwork And Info Is Up To Date.

There can be a crazy amount of paperwork for back to school so pick a night and knock it out. Phone numbers, addresses, health info, double-check that this information is current. You might even highlight the information that has changed on the form. For example, if you’ve discovered your child is allergic to dairy, make that information bright yellow on the health form.

Attend Orientation

Make it a date night for you and your child. When you get to school have your child point out their classroom, the bathrooms, the playground, rooms for art, music, physical education, and more. Help kids identify special materials and equipment you don't have at home, such as a neat set of finger paints, a ceramic wheel or climbing rope. Be excited about activities so they begin to look forward to trying new things.

Start back-to-school shopping

Nothing builds excitement like a new outfit, the latest sneakers or a cool backpack. Picking out pens, pencils and notebooks can give your child a sense of ownership that sets them up for success. Be sure to look at the requirements for your child’s class before heading out to the stores.

Label Everything

Seriously, label it. All of it. Backpacks, lunch boxes, coats, sweatshirts, shoes, school supplies – unless your teacher asks you not to label them. If your child wears uniforms to school, labeling is even more vital. And having everything labeled will make finding it so much easier when they inevitably loose it.

Set A Morning Routine

Talk through with your kids what it takes to get ready in the mornings. Then heave them help you outline a check-list, wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush their teeth. Having kids get ready in a particular order is a great idea. As much as they are capable have them get themselves ready in the morning. It will set them up to be in charge of their day. You might even have them rehearse getting ready. If you have had a relaxed summer schedule begin to wake up at what will be the rising time for school.

Sync Sleep With School Schedule

If you're like us, staying up later in the summer’s light night sky is part of the fun. Luckily, kids adapt quickly. Prioritize a consistent wake-up time and get them out of bed no matter what. Also, when you do get ready for bed focus on a set bedtime routine that tells your body it is time to sleep. In a few days, their internal clock should begin to reset.

Go Over Your School Dismissal Plan

Don’t wait until school starts to talk to your child about what will happen when the school day ends. Go over buss routines. Practice riding if you can. If they will be doing different things on certain days, help them put it in their planner or laminate index cards with the info and drop it in their backpack. Choose a meeting place for emergencies. Practice meeting there.

Photo Prep

Do yourself a favor and get those First Day of School signs ready before the last-minute arrives. Pick one special spot for photos, like the front porch or steps, and take a new shot at the start of each school year. Make sure your camera/phone is clean, charged and has plenty of memory available. This way you can snap away without deciding which vacation pictures you have to delete. On the day make sure you leave time for pictures to capture the magic moment.

Brainstorm A List Of Favorite Lunches

Work with your child to decide what they want, and start shopping for the ingredients you'll need. This is also a great time to talk about health and nutrition. If kids choose healthy options themselves they are more apt to eat them. Use some of your screen-free time to have your kids help prepare meals or after-school snacks. Get your stomach on a schedule. When possible start eating lunch at the same time as your child will be when he or she is at school.

Practice Makes Perfect

If time allows you might do a few trial runs of getting up and getting out the door. Rehearse drop-offs and pick-ups. Pack a trial lunch - then take it in the backyard for an impromptu picnic.

The Night Before:

Choose First-day Outfit and Set Out Clothes

Frantic mornings do not set a good tone for the school day. Have your child choose what he or she will wear the night before. If your kids are young you let them pick from a couple different options. Get into the habit of planning ahead by making it part of your nighttime routine. Don’t forget about socks, undies, and shoes. And perhaps have an alternate outfit, in case the weather turns.

Pre-pack Your Child's Backpack

If they know they are prepared it will cut down on any anxiety they may feel. Packing the night before will cut down on the morning rush. Designate a special hook, corner or basket for your kids pack so it does not get misplaced. Then they will know where it will be when it tis time for homework and where it will be in the morning as they are headed out the door.

Get Lunch Packed

Many parents do this as they make dinner so there's only one cleanup. Be sure to leave the lunch box open so you don't forget to add refrigerated items (like sandwiches and milk) in the morning. Some kids love to be surprised when they open their lunch at school and others like to help with the packing. Whichever you choose slip in a sweet back-to-school lunch box note, it'll make your child's day.

Keep The Evening Calm And Set The Mood

Avoid noisy games and TV, but don't force your child to turn in early. Tell a favorite bedtime story or read a story about the joys of school. If you are daring you could share a funny or embarrassing story from your own schools days.

The First Day of School:

Rise And Shine

Kids aren’t the only ones who are anxious on this special day. Allow yourself some leeway to take in this day. Get up 30 minutes before your child so you can shower and have your coffee before they wake. You need to be cheerful and relaxed. Once your child is up, have them follow their morning to-do list.

Schedule Some Extra Time

Assume your morning won’t go as planned (has it ever?) Your teenager will decide they have to wear a different outfit or your six-year-old will insist they don’t like eggs anymore. There will be chaos. Extra time will help you not let it get the best of you. Having an angry mom is the absolute worst way for my kids to start their days. Avoid words like “hurry.” Figure out how long it takes to get ready and add an extra 10-15 minutes. If you end up not needing it pat yourself on the back and take a walk with your kiddos.

Eat a Healthy Breakfast

We all want our kids to be ready to take on the day and one of the best ways to help them is to provide a nutritious breakfast. Incorporate healthy options that will give them the energy they need to be mentally alert all day. Sugary meals can dissipate quickly and set kids up for a mid-morning crash.

Create Calm

Most kids like having a few moments to get settled into their new classroom. Rushing adds to anxiety and a room packed with other noises nervous students can be intimidating. Find out what the policy is at your school for early arrival.

Welcome Your

Hero Home

When the day is over greet your warrior with a smile, and a hug if they will let you. Ask how things went but give them some space. Remember they have had a lot to handle already. Plan to have dinner together as a family, if possible, and talk about school more then. Use prompts that are specific; "What did you do at lunch?" "Where is your desk in classroom?" "Who did you talk to?" Listen without interrupting and try no to push too hard. Remember, you both will do this all over again tomorrow.

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Great suggestions... here's a few more. - download the school or district calendar and import the important dates into your personal calendar... (shortened days, field trips, holidays, parent teacher conferences etc.)

- make a list of important school staff and their emails (homeroom teacher, case manager, principal, counselor, nurse etc.). There has been significant school staff turnover; there may be some new smiling faces at your child's school this year. Pay particular attention to your child's academic teaching staff to see if there are any long-term substitutes in place until positions are filled.

- take note of any social-emotional student surveys/PBIS or state testing that will be given to your student and speak to your partner on whether your child…

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