Across the United States, families are preparing for “back-to-school.” While much of the country begins in late August or early September, some states have already returned to school. Whatever the start date is for your district, two things are certain: whenever school does start for your kids it is still technically the summer season, as fall in the Northern Hemisphere doesn’t officially begin until September 23; and it isn’t easy to transition from the carefree tone of summer to the rigors of school. Here are seven practical and spiritual ways to ensure your family has a smooth back-to-school experience:
1Make a few more summer memories while there's still time
Whether it’s after work while the weather is still nice or on weekends, find a way to squeeze out a little more of that summer vacation magic. Whether it’s a picnic together in the park (or on your back lawn), a family round of miniature golf, or one last weekend getaway, summer joys can continue even as pencils are sharpened and backpacks prepped.
2Practice your fall schedule gently before you expect it to kick in solidly
If school hasn’t started for you yet, you have time to get used to the schedule so it doesn’t come as a shock. Gradually shift your schedule closer to what it will be during the school year. That could mean waking the kids up a bit earlier each day or going to bed a bit earlier each night. And whenever school does start, don’t expect the schedule to kick in perfectly! Be gentle with yourself and with the rest of your family as you get used to it.
3Get supplies ready not only for school ... but for home, too
While you’re getting those spiral notebooks and reading lists ready, don’t forget to pick up the things that will make for a more peaceful home life and facilitate support of good home study skills. Need sticky notes or notepads for reminders? Need construction paper or glue sticks to have for lower grades’ homework? Stock up today to ease stress tomorrow.
4Talk about it
Make sure to provide time for everyone in the family to be able to talk about what’s on their minds and hearts. There will be academic and social pressures and worries, and kids need to talk as much as parents need to both listen and share as well, to provide a good model of how to open up. More extroverted kids might enjoy the opportunity of talking over their concerns around the family dinner table; more introverted kids might need the quiet of the bedtime tuck-in or early in the morning when only mom or dad is awake to chat. Even the seemingly calmest kids have worries and pressures, so make sure they get some air time. Make sure you do, too.
5As a family, write down what you're most grateful for about your summer and what your goals are for the new school year
As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Try it: around a slow-paced Sunday breakfast or over dessert one Friday night, ask each member of the family to share what they are most grateful for about the summer and one big goal they have for the new school year. Watch as it inspires conversation and reflection. You’ll be surprised what interesting thoughts or feelings this subject may provoke. Record their answers and hang on the fridge to keep grateful and focused, or fold beneath the statue of Mary or a saint to ask for strength and blessing.
6Choose a prayer to strengthen your family through this transition
After you’ve contemplated about what everyone’s most grateful for and what their goals are, choose a prayer you think best suits your family at this moment and introduce it the next night with grace before meals, explaining how you will all turn to this saint or devotion to help your family grow over the next few weeks and months. This great go-to prayer invokes the assistance of St. Joseph, Patron Saint of Families, and has always been a great help to my family.
7Choose a simple but sweet tradition that will transition you from summer to fall
Why not think of something simple but sweet that will preserve a little of the peace and fun of summer as your family adjusts to those hectic “back-to-school” weeks filled with new challenges? Whether it’s cooking out on Friday nights; roasting marshmallows on the weekend; or just tossing a ball on the lawn between activities; fitting in a bit of summer nostalgia between homework, sports, and carpool will go a long way to ease the sense of loss that can occur when vacation ends. It teaches a valuable lesson that a bit of wholesome fun goes a long way in the face of stress. And most importantly, it reminds the whole family that while school is important, what matters more is the time family spends together and the memories you create and share.
3 Tips for helping your kids face back-to-school anxiety
5 Inspirational movies for the back-to-school season