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Back-to-school checklist for parents

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Written by: Serena Goel, Linda Martella, and Hayley Stinson with Child Development Institute

Our clinical team developed this checklist for parents of children with an overall sense of uneasiness about heading back to school.

One Month before the Start of School

  • Listen, acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings around transitions. Comments meant to sooth, such as “Don’t worry, it will all work out,” may not actually reassure your child about the upcoming transition. Instead you might try saying, “Change is hard for lots of children. I know it might be extra hard for you. Let’s talk about what makes it hard and what we can do to help you with the transition back to school.”
  • Know your child and what works for them. If your child is a planner and likes to know about things well in advance, start to talk about the transition to school a month before the first day (e.g., when the change is going to happen, what is going to happen, and who is going to be there). If your child worries and ruminates about transitions, start to talk about the transition to school a week before the first day.
  • Remind your child about past successes and strengths. Talk about how to use those strengths in different situations in the classroom and at school.
  • Bring your child to the school and/or school playground so they become familiar and/or reacquainted with the space before the first day.
  • Try to arrange a meeting or phone call with the school principal, vice principal, and/or teacher.                             
  • Connecting with the school is an opportunity to:
    • Discuss your child’s strengths and needs (i.e., what works well at home or in other settings to help your child succeed)
    • Get to know and develop positive relationships with the school staff
  • Try to arrange a meeting with your child’s teacher and visit the classroom (especially if it is a new environment) so your child has a familiar face for the first day of school. Getting to know the teacher and environment may help your child feel more comfortable in the classroom.

One Week before the Start of School

  • Summer routines tend to differ from school routines – try creating a visual schedule in your home of the change in routine and post it somewhere for the whole family to see (e.g., on the fridge).
  • Begin to structure bedtime and morning routines at least one week before school starts, which may also help to get your child on the right sleep schedule.
  • Think about screen time during the school week and decide what is reasonable for your family.
  • Read stories to your child to replicate the classroom structure and encourage literacy.
  • Make a space at home for supplies or knapsacks such as a plastic bin or table.
  • Create a comfortable and quiet space for homework and studying.
  • Discuss upcoming school routines and schedules with your child (e.g., school agenda, after school programs, extracurricular activities).

One Day before the Start of School

  • Prepare fun snacks for school as well as the walk or drive home.
  • Lay out clothes with your child the night before the first day of school.
  • Help your child pack their knapsack the night before to avoid morning chaos.
  • Use a transitional object if your child is still feeling worried or anxious.

To learn about our school-based programs, click here