This post is an excerpt of mine from the 2021 Back-to-School BACKYARD CAMP issue/email newsletter!
You must check out this Canadian website for families. I’ve copied some information below about the creative, fun, and smart activities and challenges they share for parents to keep their kids busy, active, and learning.
Strategies for a Smooth Back-to-School Season
The summer holidays end soon. Another transition is approaching our families, and while the first day of school can be exciting, it’s not always easy.
Many of us are eager to get back to routines and the social life at school, but we dread the end of summer’s freedoms and adventures. The months to come demand learning, discipline, and focus. This feels like a heavy weight for some.
For the second year in a row, back to school is complicated! COVID’s continued presence brings uncertainty and fear about safety at school again. It’s been a long time since kids were in a “regular” classroom without protocols and limits.
Despite COVID, many parents welcome the return to in-person learning. Our kids can socialize with peers and interact with teachers in real life. Activities are back on, and this will make school more fun and meaningful.
But we’re worried: will our kids be ready for their next grade? Did they keep up during remote learning and all the pivots from lockdowns? Will they interact well socially? Age appropriately? Did we do enough at home?
To help manage worry and get our kids ready for and adjusted to school (COVID-style), here are some tips:
Make a date for back-to-school shopping: get haircuts, and buy clothing, supplies, shoes, and gear. Preparation is the first step to promote success at school. Who doesn’t love a new eraser and pencil case? Even better is a fresh lunch bag and haircut! This shopping trip can be an annual family ritual marking a new start. This year, it’s an extra special event. Why not add in lunch at a favourite neighbourhood joint? Positive feelings all-around here, added onto to promoting the learning skill of preparation.
re-establish school-year routines ASAP: wake-up and bedtimes, meals, chores. This one’s obvious. It’s easier to ease slowly into non-summer-vacation routines such as earlier bedtimes in the week before school starts. Get back on track with breakfast and lunch menus too! (For some, especially teenagers, the rip-off-the-bandaid approach is best: let them deal with an early alarm only when they must. However, the first-week of school can be miserable at home if you choose this approach!)
set up a long-term calendar for display in the kitchen or family room. Discuss upcoming events and activities for everyone in the family. Print activities in different colours. This time management practice gets kids ready and excited for things coming up and it’s a vital life skill.
give kids a sense of autonomy and control. Give them “say” when getting school “ready.” Children and teens buy into family routines and rules much more when their voices are heard, their wants and needs respected, and their feelings validated. Give kids the chance to make meaningful choices on a daily basis — choices that impact them — and they will be more motivated and cooperative to contribute to the family team.
re-connect with friends. Make more social connections. Everyone will be home from their summer adventures as the holidays come to an end. Reach out to friends and set up play dates to reconnect and build excitement for the first day of school.
tour the grounds of the school again. Get the feel of it (especially if it’s a new school!) Think about all the things to do with classmates and friends. Talk about stuff they’ll learn. Get excited to be back on the playground!
limit screen-time: impose a curfew. During the pandemic, we relied on screens to deliver education and social connections. Now that we can go back to school, talk to your kids about scaling back on screen time, and what they think is reasonable. While screens may be here to stay, screen-time limits are reasonable now that life’s opening up again.
reflect on the summer, and the pandemic so far. Discuss personal growth, progress, and struggles. Validate worries and concerns. Build confidence by discussing past successes.
Some kids may feel nervous about going back to school in-person. They may have doubts or fears about themselves and their abilities. Some may feel separation anxiety. Remind them of all their successful back-to-school seasons in their past. Remember successful coping strategies during the pandemic and highlight situations in which your kids demonstrated grit and perseverance.
Whatever feelings your kids have got — any you may see them changing day to day — listen to them, validate their feelings, and support them.
Talk about their past track record: they’ve had really successful transitions to new classrooms! They’ve made friends, and earned good grades in the past. They’ve been active participants in activities, and had fun.
They also managed a difficult year-and-a half of the pandemic — and made it this far! There’s something to be said for that.
Way to go.
Best wishes to you and your family in the next few weeks!
More about Backyard Camp:
Backyard Camp offers a free and paid email newsletter for parents and caregivers who would like help programming their child’s play activities. Unlike the various blogs that list many ideas for parents, Backyard Camp’s uniqueness is in the specificity and detail of its programming. This newsletter is personalized to the needs of each family’s circumstances, meaning the content received will be tailored for factors like the child’s age, activity preferences (e.g. crafts, sports), number of children and if they’re living in a house or building.
The content is provided by a range of contributors, from teachers to experienced camp counsellors. They’ve also partnered with existing programs, to share their expertise with the broader community and contribute to helping parents.
For many more tips, grab a copy of Jane's book, Launch Your Kid: How to Promote Your Child’s Academic & Personal Success (without being a helicopter parent)