7 steps to prepare your child for the start of school

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And just like that, summer is over and it’s back to school! Whether it’s their first time or they’re returning, your kids are bound to be anxious about going to school. Any change in routine can be rough on them.

Here are a few things you can do to help them welcome the school year with open arms:

  1. Slowly ease them into it

    Getting them used to a healthy routine will help smooth out first-day jitters. Begin changing their sleeping and waking schedules at least one to two weeks before school starts. Children need 10-13 hours of sleep every day, so set their bedtimes accordingly.

    Cut down their screen time (TV, computer or gadgets) so that they can be asleep by 9:00 p.m. or earlier. They should also start waking up early to have time for their morning routines. Encourage the habit of fixing the bed, dressing up, getting things ready, and eating a proper breakfast before leaving the house.

    A new routine they should learn is the triad of physical distancing, proper handwashing and wearing a mask. You can help them get used to this as early as now by practicing at home. It may be harder for younger kids to get into this, so be ready with strategies to make it easier for them.

  2.  

    How to get kids to wear a face mask, Coronavirus Q&A with Dr. Mike

    Read the Province of Manitoba’s Restoring Safe Schools: July 30 – Guidelines for September 2020.

  3. Be excited for them

    It is so important that they don’t hear you talking about going back to school like it’s a big burden. Create positive anticipation for the first day of class by talking to your kids about all the things they should look forward to in the new school year like seeing their old friends and gaining new friends, learning new things, getting into sports, going on field trips and joining other fun activities. This will not work only for your toddlers but with your teens too.

  4. Make preparation for going back to school an adventure

    • Go back-to-school shopping with your child. Let them take the lead in choosing their clothes and gear. Fabric masks could be the trendy accessory at school this fall so let hem choose the kind they like. Having new clothes, shoes, school bag or notebooks can get them excited to go to school. Check with the school about supplies. They usually give out a list of required materials. You may have the option of ordering them from school.
    • Prepare a special study nook. Get them involved in arranging and decorating their study area. Make sure that there are no distractions like TVs or video game consoles near their nook.
    • Involve your child in planning their lunches. Make a list of food your child would like to bring for the week. Ask them for suggestions. Remember to be guided by the school’s food and nutrition policy (Read: Top 5 tips for preparing your kids’ school lunches). There are foods they are not allowed to bring to school to avoid setting off allergies.
    • Plan a new look. Talk to them about getting a new hair cut or hair style. Go to the salon with them.
  5. Listen to their concerns

    Your child may be nervous about new situations – even if it’s just a new classroom or a new teacher. They could also be worried about catching COVID-19. Talk to them and always be reassuring. Tell them that you and their teacher will always be there to support them. Describe how the first day will go and emphasize the new protocols the school will be doing to protect them from the virus. If your kids are extra stressed about the first day, drive or walk with them to school.

  6. Visit the school

    If your child is going to school for the first time or if they’re going to a new school, becoming familiar with new surroundings would help ease their anxiety. Visit the school before the school year starts (call ahead to check if they’re open). Go with your child to see their classroom, library, cafeteria, playground and washroom. This can lessen their worries about getting lost in school.

  7. Discuss their school schedule

    Once you get their schedule, discuss with them how their day will go so they’ll know what to expect. Describe how they will travel to and from school. Walk with them to the bus stop if they will be picked up by the school bus. Establish a daily routine so that they’ll know the exact time they need to wake up, prepare, and when they should be out of the house. Allow them to develop the habit of preparing things ahead of time like laying out their clothes the night before (don’t forget to check the temperature for the next day). Post a checklist on the fridge door or wall as a reminder.

  8. Shift family activities to more scholarly pursuits

    If you have been spending your weekends’ road tripping and travelling all over Manitoba, start including more educational activities like going to a museum, exploring the library or spending an afternoon reading a book at the park. This will help shift their brain into study mode while still enjoying the last days of their summer vacation.

 
Article updated August 12, 2020.
 
Sources: Back to school tips, healthychildren.org; 101 back-to-school tips for kids and parents, Liz Alton, Care.com; and Healthy sleep habits: How many hours does your child need? Healthy Children.org. Retrieved August 23, 2018.

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Community Resources

Read Preparing for going back to school during the pandemic for more tips.

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