Tips for Back-to-School Success

One minute you're vacationing and enjoying the sun and suddenly it's time to go back to school.....yikes, what do you do??  Not to worry, transitioning to school doesn't have to be filled with tears, either from the kids or the adults! ;)  

The most important thing to remember is that preparation is key to success.  We all tend to be more comfortable when we know what to expect and surprises may not always make us feel entirely secure.  So waking your child one morning and announcing, "Surprise, it's the first day of school!" may not produce the best results, unless you're looking for a funny video for your Facebook page!   


Getting ready

Parents and teachers both have a big task in being prepared for the first day.  For parents, help your kids gradually get back in a routine from their summer freedom:

  1. Set regular bedtime and wake up times.  This will ease the rude awakening of having to suddenly get up at a specific time every day.
  2. If kids don't already have a chores list, make one.  The routine of doing chores will help them focus and be ready for homework (might be best not to mention that part to your kids!).
  3. Read to them each night before bed.  Get them used to being quiet and listening.  Besides, reading is always a good thing no matter the time of year!
  4. Visit the school.  Nothing's worse than the fear of the unknown.  If possible, take your child to the school on a weeknight or weekend so you can look around together and get them familiar with the setting so they don't feel overwhelmed when then have to go alone.

Teachers have a hefty task ahead of them as well.  In addition to all the classroom details to plan, here are some things to consider to make the first day run as smoothly as possible:

  1. Staff up.  I'm sure it goes without saying that being prepared with sufficient staff is key!  Nothing adds more stress than frantically trying to juggle too many tasks with too few people.
  2. Anticipate clients' needs.  What will parents be needing and how can you be best prepared?
  3. Use social media. Get the word out about your program and help set expectations for parents.
  4. Set aside personal time.  Don't forget to take some time for yourself, too.  Enjoy a special dinner or activity before the first day arrives.


The first day

You've done everything you can do to prepare--now the moment of truth: the first day of school arrives (cue the scary music)!

Relax, this is only a drill! ;)  The key is to make it fun:

  1. Add little surprises (this time it's OK!). What would be more fun for a kid than to get a special note or treat in their lunch?
  2. Give support and encouragement.  Tell them what to expect for the first day.  Try the buddy system--everything's easier when you have someone with you, right?! 
  3. Be prepared for separation anxiety.  Don't show your anxiety as that will only add to the child's concerns.  Keep the goodbyes short and sweet to avoid prolonging the issue.  It will get easier over time!
  4. Focus on the opportunities.  School opens up a whole new world for kids.  Show them all the fun things they'll get to do in school: painting, coloring, playing with blocks, meeting new friends...the opportunities are limitless!
  5. Offer incentives or rewards.  New clothes or school supplies with their favorite superhero can make any kid's day!  Prepare a favorite activity for after school as a reward for their accomplishment. 


Whew, we made it!

OK, deep breath...ah, now doesn't that feel better?!  If you make it through the first day, it's all downhill from there.  Keep up the good work and know you're making a difference for your children every day!

Just so you know you're not alone in this journey, here are some funny stories from other teachers.


Helpful resources

Introducing Children to Child Care

Tips for Handling the First Day of Preschool

Goodbye without Tears

Tips to Help with Separation Anxiety

A Day in the Life of a Preschool Teacher

Classroom Management the First Day of School

Beginning of School Activities




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