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The First Day of School: 5 Tips for Parents

school suppliesI’m not sure who is more nervous about the first day of school in our family–our two kids or me?  Of course, it’s a mixture of nerves, excitement and the anticipation of a new school year ahead with new classmates and a new teacher.  I’ve worked in education for 13 years as a teacher with Teach for America, a charter school teacher and for the last 9 years, as a consultant and recruiter for schools and non-profits.  Despite my passion for education and schools, at the end of the day I’m a parent like you and those butterflies you feel when you send your little one (or big one!) off to kindergarten or third grade or middle school for the first time affect me in the exact same way!

Here are 5 quick tips to help make your first day back to school more fun, celebratory and less anxiety provoking and nerve-wracking!

1.  My friend Rorke Denver, a retired Navy SEAL, shared this great motto with me, “calm is contagious.”  Evidently Navy SEALs do better in battle and in stressful situations when everyone on the team remains calm.  Think about it!  When you’re calm, you’re focused and you make better decisions than when your heart is racing and your mind is scattered.  Kids can sense when we’re stressed.  They have incredible radar and can read their parents emotions so well!  Project calm the night before the first day of school and again in the morning when you wake them up.

2.  Find a morning routine that works for you!  Kids like structure.  They thrive in it actually!  Create a predictable morning routine much like the way a teacher creates a morning routine in his or her classroom.  In our family, that means that our girls choose and lay out their clothing the night before.  Our girls have an alarm clock in their bedroom that wakes them up about 10 minutes before Chris or I come to check on them.  This gives them some freedom and independence to get up, use the bathroom, wash their face and get dressed (or at least start to get dressed!) before we come in the door.  Our older daughter, who is almost 9 years old, especially likes having some time to herself in the morning.  She feels confident because she knows we trust her and empower her to handle some self-care responsibilities on her own.

3.  Set the breakfast table the night before!  This is a trick my mom taught me.  My mom worked full-time as a social worker and therapist while raising 4 kids so she was always trying to find creative ways to save a little time in the mornings.  Mornings with kids are rough!  There always seems to be something that needs finding or a permission slip that needs signing! Why not set your breakfast table the night before to save yourself a few minutes and make your morning routine go just a little smoother?

4.  Pack lunches the night before and leave backpacks by the front door!  This tip is a tried and true piece of advice many moms and dads I know swear by!  I will admit that I pack sandwiches in the morning because I’m picky and don’t like the bread to get hard overnight in the fridge, but other than that, fruit is sliced and put into small Tupperwear containers, water bottles are filled up, yogurt, apple sauce and/or string cheese is placed in the lunchbox in the refrigerator the night before.  Take a few minutes before bedtime to put backpacks by the front door! It’s one less thing to think about and you’re less likely to leave a backpack behind when it’s the last thing you see when you walk out the door.

5.  Leave 10 minutes early.  This is the hardest tip for me to live by!  Advice is always easier to give out than to take, right?  When we leave for school even a few minutes or, better yet, 10 minutes early, the parking situation is a breeze! The drive to school is more relaxed and kids tend to open up more about their day and share their worries and/or things they are excited about.  Those car conversations are key–especially as our kids grow up and start to pull away and share less and less about themselves and share more with their friends.

I hope you and your family have a great first day back to school!  If you’ve discovered some tips or tactics that make your morning routine go well, please comment below!  I’d love to hear from you (and I do read all of the comments both here and on my Facebook and Twitter page). 

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