As summer comes to an end and back-to-school season begins, it can be hard to get back into a regular schedule — for both kids and adults.
To help you out, we asked Dr. Fran Walfish, a child and family psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent,” and Dr. Christina Nichols, a licensed clinical psychologist, to share their thoughts on how parents can get a jump on the school year. In response, they gave us 101 tips that parents can use to ease their kids back into school, while also managing their own stress.
The trick is to plan ahead. Read through this list and identify some strategies that you think could help you and your family stay organized and on top of things. Then, test these different approaches as a family so you can figure out which ones work for you, and which ones don’t.
Finally, be sure to include your entire child care crew in your plans, too. Whether you have a babysitter, nanny, tutor or all of the above, they’ll be able to help you keep your kiddo on track for the first day of school. Plus, they’ll be able to take some tasks off of your plate — which means you can enter the school year with a little more of your sanity intact.
1. Set your kids’ sleep schedules back to “school time” two weeks before the first day of school.
2. Get your kids involved in programs they can do after school to keep them active.
3. Visit cultural attractions like museums to shift their brains into “scholar” mode.
4. Hire an after-school sitter to help care for your kids while you’re at work.
5. Encourage your kids to read at least one book before the school year begins.
6. Reacquaint your kids with the calendar schedule they’ll use to manage their activities.
7. Try apps like iHomework or myHomework to help your kids organize assignments.
8. Let kids choose a planner or scheduling tool they’re excited to use.
9. Set up weekly meetings to review your kids’ schedules for the week(s) ahead.
10. Create a family calendar that tracks everyone’s activities and commitments.
11. Refresh your rules about screen time for the school year. What’s allowed and when?
12. Establish a set “family time,” whether it’s during dinner or before bed.
13. Give kids a specific day to when they can choose all the activities you do together.
14. Determine how long it takes them to do assignments to help with time management.
15. Use an egg timer to get your kids used to focusing for specific periods of time.
16. Teach your kids to prioritize their assignments by making to-do lists with deadlines.
17. Give your kids a short break after each assignment they finish, such as a short walk.
18. Set a regular alarm each day that signals the start of homework time.
19. Discuss what your kids can expect on the first day so they feel more prepared.
20. Visit the school with your kids so they can get familiar with their new environments.
21. Arrange playdates with two or three of your kids’ friends to rebuild existing social ties.
22. Ask teachers for class rosters so you can arrange playdates with new classmates, too.
23. Get the lists of school supplies, books and technology your kids will need.
24. Inventory last year’s school supplies before going out to buy more.
25. Include your kids in back-to-school shopping by letting them pick out their items.
26. Make a plan for organizing those supplies — and keeping them that way.
27. Create a dedicated space for your kids to store their school supplies and technology.
28. Establish a specific space like the family office as an official “homework station.”
29. Remove distractions like TVs and video game consoles from homework areas.
30. Repurpose and relabel plastic tubs to organize all school supplies.
31. Help your kids develop a filing system for organizing their documents for each class.
32. Set — and enforce — regular weekday and weekend bedtimes.
33. Set — and enforce — regular weekday and weekend wakeup calls.
34. Keep track of existing extracurricular activities to prevent over-scheduling.
35. Have your kids set realistic goals for the new year, such as reading 30 books.
36. Help your kids prioritize their activities by tying them to their year’s goals.
37. Create a list of fun after-school activities and games to keep your kids entertained.
38. Touch base with teachers early on to troubleshoot any issues your kids may be having. Here are 20 questions you can ask.
39. Create an after-school schedule that allows time for snack, relaxation, play and study.
40. Establish regular bedtime routines for elementary school kids and preschoolers.
41. Carve out blocks of fun time for your kids, whether it’s through sports or playdates.
42. Hire a tutor, babysitter or homework helper to help you navigate homework time.
43. Model good behavior by doing your own work/projects while your kids do homework.
44. Encourage your kids to lay out their school clothes the night before.
45. Use this printable checklist to establish a regular morning routine.
46. Have your kids pack their school bags before they go to sleep that night.
47. Have your kids also pack their gym bags the night before and leave them by the door.
48. If your kids bring their own lunch, pack their lunch boxes before going to bed.
49. Establish rules for where they should put lunchboxes, etc. when they come home.
50. Revamp your home organization setup to be more kid-friendly. For example, low hooks make it easy for younger children to hang up coats!
51. Go through your kids’ schoolwork once a month to toss the things you don’t want.
52. File or scan assignments you want to keep.
53. Create an inbox for kids to leave things that need your attention, like permission slips.
54. Designate a plastic tub as a put-away bin for anything out of place.
55. Set a time each week to sync up individual calendars with the family calendar.
56. Inventory your kids’ wardrobes and toss/donate things they’ve outgrown.
57. Create a list and budget for back-to-school shopping.
58. Let your child choose their clothes, shoes and other items they’ll need.
59. Go through their wardrobes every two to three months to get rid of things that no longer fit.
60. Set up a laundry system that makes it easy to sort and wash everyone’s clothes.
61. Make homework caddies that can be used to carry school supplies through the house.
62. Buy bulk packaged snacks like bags of grapes that can be easily added to lunches.
63. Discuss the different pros and cons of bringing versus buying school lunches.
64. Get copies of school menus in advance to discuss lunch choices.
65. Get your kids involved in creating and preparing their daily lunch menus.
66. Buy reusable sports bottles to increase their water consumption during the day.
67. Keep a small emergency allowance in your kids’ bags, just in case.
68. Organize lunch ingredients in one part of the fridge so you can make fast lunches.
69. Purchase lunch boxes or reusable bags to help save the environment.
70. Make a week’s worth of sandwiches on Sunday, wrap in tin foil, and freeze. Unthaw them the night before.
71. Use sticky notes to flag important items that kids should pay attention to.
72. Plan supervised study dates when kids work together on projects or homework.
73. Have a backup transportation mode planned in case your kids miss the bus.
74. Set your clocks forward 10 minutes. This makes it easier to be on time.
75. Schedule blocks of time to check in with each child to see how things are going.
76. Hire a housekeeper to help with cleaning and crossing things off your to-do lists.
77. Schedule at least one 30-minute block in your calendar each day for self-care.
78. Create a rewards system for when kids meet goals, like helping around the house.
79. Shop for school supplies and clothes early. Avoid the rush.
80. Use positive phrasing, such as, “You can go outside after your homework is done,” rather than, “You’re not going outside until this is finished.”
81. Make sure your kids (and you!) have an effective wakeup alarm that works for them.
82. Set an alarm or notification 30 minutes before bedtime.
83. Remove things like mobile devices from kids’ bedrooms to focus them on sleeping.
84. Use night lights, white sound machines and fans for kids who can’t get to sleep.
85. Keep a single, easy-access file for vaccination records and other important papers.
86. Set up the breakfast table before you go to bed.
87. Map out a bathroom schedule to avoid family fights for bathroom time.
88. Replace old backpacks with ones that are sturdy, ergonomic and kid-friendly.
89. Keep a running list of supplies, clothing and food that need to be bought each week.
90. Use a see-and-store toy rack to make it easier for kids to stay organized.
91. Set up a hanging organizer with five boxes for clothes for each day of the week.
92. Dedicate a rack in the garage, basement or entry way for sports equipment.
93. Create a regular pet care schedule that outlines who does what and when.
94. Schedule study blocks on the weekends before big tests, midterms and finals.
95. Use under-the-bed storage for off-season clothes and toys that aren’t regularly used.
96. Give everyone a shower caddy to keep bathroom supplies organized.
97. Have a playdate caddy ready to go, with an extra set of clothes, games and toys.
98. Figure out different ways you can be involved in the classroom this school year.
99. Talk openly with your kids about their feelings about returning to school. Make sure to hit on these five back-to-school worries.
100. Do something fun to diffuse this stressful time of year for all of you.
101. Take a breath!
With all this preparation, your kids will be in great shape. If you’re relaxed and calm, they’ll head off to school feeling excited and ready to get to work.