Our 12-step back to school checklist for parents

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Follow these simple tips to help students minimize their anxiety on the first day back.

One week before school:

1. Start your School Sleep Routine

Routines can be relaxed in the summer, so a week prior to school is a good time to adjust the family schedule to get everyone back into morning and bedtime habits.

  • Establish bed times for the school year and start following them
  • Ensure the entire family is up when they would be for school
  • For older children, give them their own alarm clock and let them practice using it
  • Ensure that the entire family get involved so that your child doesn’t feel alone with these changes

 2. Promote Healthy Eating Habits

Nutrition is extremely important; it’s hard to cope well when you are tired or hungry, so provide your child nutritious and frequent snacks and build in regular routines. 

  • Start having your meals around regular mealtimes
  • Ask your child to help you create a school lunch menu for the first week of school
  • Allow your child to pick out his or her favourite snacks
  • Allow your child to help you plan your dinner meals -this way s(he) will have a yummy dinner to look forward to

3. Shop for Supplies

Make picking out school supplies a fun task!

  • Create a list of school supplies with your child
  • Plan a fun shopping trip to pick out supplies 

4. Encourage Your Child to Share His or Her Fears

Talk to your child about his or her worries and practice coping skills

  • Touch base with your child at a regular time each day to discuss your child’s worries and encourage him or her to problem solve and plan
  • Role-play with your child
  • Focus on the positive aspects – ask your child to list the three things that s(he)is most excited about on the first day
  • Practice calm breathing with your child – s(he) can learn to use this when her anxiety rises
  • Develop cognitive coping cards that your child can use to help cope with anxiety

A couple of days before school: 

5. Do a dry-run

  • Go to school several times – walking, driving, or taking the bus
  • For young children, describe and draw out the route and include how long it will take 
  • For younger children, go to the schoolyard and play a few times before the first day of school

6. Tour the School

  • For new students, take a tour of the school
  • Show your child the classrooms, the cafeteria, and the bathrooms
  • Meet your child’s teacher with your child present, if possible

7. Plan the Outfits

  • Ask your child to help choose the outfits for the first week of school
  • Let your child pick out his or her favorite outfit for the first day

8. Pack the Backpack

  • Together with your child, pack the backpack the night before, including treats 

9. Choose a Special Object

  • For younger children who are nervous about separating, suggest taking a special object to school that reminds him or her of home
  • Put a reassuring note in a child’s lunch can also help ease separation anxiety 

The first day of school: 

10. Walk with a Friend

  • Try and arrange that your child walks with a friend to school for the first couple of days
  • Arrange play days with school mates leading up to the first day 

11. Talk to the Teacher

  • Let the teacher know that your child is having some separation anxiety 

12. Praise and Reward

  • Most importantly, praise and reward your child for brave behavior!

Download the 12-Step Back to School Checklist.   

Here are even more resources to help your child ease back into school.