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How to Prepare Kids for the New School Year NOW

We are at that turning point of summer. As I write this blog, July 4th is this weekend. I’ve talked with various teachers, parents and students who use July 4th as a mid-point of summer. For most, it’s a fun time of year, a much-needed time of year to rest up from the previous school year. Many indicate that the July 4th Holiday is the turning point they use to reset their barometers to the upcoming school year.

When Do You Start Preparing for the School Year?

The start of the school year does seem to approach quickly once July is underway. Because so many of our schools here in the Omaha area start early and mid-August, it really is time to start thinking about how to prepare.

I’ve been talking with quite a few parents, teachers, and students and what I’m hearing is that schedules really get tossed out as summer takes off - but then there is a real resistance to getting back on track once school starts up again.

Some of the suggestions and feedback for how to better manage the resistance came from parents, teachers, and even students.

Talk with Your Kids about the School Year

One dad recommended that dinnertime conversations about school and what the kids are looking forward to help his family prepare. He said he learned the hard way not to start talking about the next school year too early in the summer, but that by early August, a great way to get the kids thinking ahead is to ask questions at mealtimes. These conversations can take place in the car or tucking them in at night too.

A teacher who works with 7th graders told me that she really appreciates it when parents take an active role in helping their kids prepare for the routines of the school year. She told me that there is a noticeable difference in those first few weeks of school with attention and enthusiasm if our kids have been emotionally and physically preparing for the new school year. Her recommendation is for parents to ask open-ended questions – questions that can’t be answered with a yes or a no – and really take an interest in what the child’s answers are.

One 16-year-old suggested that moms and dads should talk privately first, and be in agreement on the specifics of how the rest of the summer schedule will look before talking with the kids. He went on to suggest that, by July 13 – midway through the month – a realistic “practice”schedule be introduced to the kids, and implemented over the next few weeks. He saw that this worked in his own family, providing structure and routine to help all the kids work toward on-time-bedtimes, technology unplugs, and greater consistency in getting up and dressed without a lot of “fuss and muss”.

Wow! That’s from a 16-year-old!

Routine Is Your Friend

What became clear to me in these conversations is that a structure of some kind, a routine, helps our kids and it helps us, as parents and teachers, too. Last month’s blog talked about a variety of fun things to do as summer gets started; now that summer is about halfway through, we begin looking to the not-so-distant future of school time, homework, school schedules and all that goes with it.

When I was in college, one of my professors said, “Kids thrive in structure”. That has always stuck with me – probably because I think it’s true. And I think it’s true for grownups too. Summer presents parents with the challenge of relaxing the structure, just enough but not too much, and then being mindful when it’s time to shore up the routines just a bit, preparing for the next big adventure of school.

Please feel free to let us know how you and your family manage your summertime routines, and your back-to-school routines.

If you need more tips, talk to child's pediatrician about establishing a school routine or how to talk with your child about starting school.

Originally Published: July 2014. Revised: January 2023.

Karen Williams, LIMHP
Karen Williams, LIMHP

Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.

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