The Top Three Back to School Tips

Paula Statmanby Paula Statman
There are a million back-to-school tips out there and if you try to follow all of them, you’ll run yourself ragged before the first day of school.  So, I’ve chosen my top 3.  They cover family communication, planning ahead and organizing routines, and safety. 
Tip #1
This one is a must-do.  While you still have a few days before you have to start packing lunches, sit down with your kids individually and ask them, “What can I do to help you have a positive school year?  What did we learn from last year that we could repeat or improve upon this year?” 
Discuss your expectations about grades, friends, behavior, extracurricular activities and anything else that poses a challenge in the coming school term.  Address any worries or anxieties they have.  They may bring up anything from using the bathroom, to riding the bus, to bullies.  Your job is to offer reassure them and have good information handy.
Then together schedule future discussion dates on a calendar.  Although your kids might protest a little, remember that children appreciate it when their parents stay informed and involved.  And these days, given what our kids are dealing with at school, we can’t afford not to be.
Tip #2
If morning routines have been a source of stress in the past they will likely be again this year.  Make up your mind to turn them around once and for all. Organize and streamline early morning tasks and make it clear that everyone must do their fair share.  No nagging (you) and no complaining (them). 
One of the simplest strategies is to do as much as possible the night before.  Selecting next day outfits, loading backpacks, and making lunches are all tasks that can be done in advance. If your morning routines are hit and miss, make a solid plan that includes an agreed upon wake up time, showering schedule, and being dressed in time to eat a healthy breakfast.   If your kids are young, stickers and charts are good motivators.  If they are older and late bedtimes are part of the problem, get a handle on that early in the year.
Tip #3
This tip is a combination of proven safety strategies.  Your peace of mind about your kids’ safety – as well as their age and where you live -- has a lot to do with you letting them walk to school.  Walking to school as good exercise should be factored in, too.  
First, rehearse the safety route to school, even if you kids will be walking with adult supervision.  Be sure they are prepared with and use good pedestrian safety skills.  Take a practice walk or two, noting potential dangers along the way. Find a direct, safe route with crossing guard support, if possible.  Be sure they understand and use stop light rules, walk in the crosswalk, and look both ways before crossing. 
Then, along with those skills, teach them to be aware of their environment and the people in it.   Go over how to respond if a stranger approaches them.  Don’t plant images of scary looking people in their head.  Prepare them to act safely if a nice, friendly person asks for help, offers them a ride, or a treat or gift.  Also, teach them to stand arm’s length from the curb. 
While having them walk with a buddy is safer, buddies aren’t going to be much help unless they are stranger-wise and street-smart.  The rule of thumb is if children cannot spot and turn down bribes, it is too soon to let them walk independently.  Keep practicing with them until they can.   Your goal is gradually help them gain the confidence and skill to navigate safely without you.
holiday stressAbout the Author:
Paula Statman, M.S.S.W. is an internationally respected educator, speaker and award-winning author.  Her practical, positive approach to raising safe and strong children has benefited hundreds of thousands of parents. Paula is a repeat guest on Oprah and the Today Show, has appeared on over 200 radio and television programs, and is featured in publications such as Parents, Child, Redbook, and USA  The founder and director KidWISE Institute, Paula lives in Oakland, California with her husband and daughter. For more information visit