Dear Parent, From a Teacher: 5 Ways to Make the Back-to-School Transition Run Smoothly

As a mom and a teacher, I am always shocked by how fast the summers fly by. I feel like just as I am starting to settle into a nice, relaxing summertime routine — WHAM! The back-to-school supplies are stocked all over Target. So, I want to share five pieces of advice to help ease the transition back into school.

1. Wake-Up and Bedtimes. 

Practice waking and going to bed at “normal school times” at least a week prior to when school begins. This will give everyone in the house a jump start to that feeling of getting up early and going to bed at an established time.

2. Dish Out the Responsibility.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like the housekeeper from The Jetsons in the morning, except I don’t have motorized legs — making lunches, gathering breakfast, ensuring clothes are put on, teeth are brushed, animals fed, and the list goes on and on. Allow your child to be part of this morning routine. It will help to take some of the stress off of you and give them a bird’s eye view into everything that Mom does to help everyone get out the door in the morning.

Last year, I wrote down all the “get out of the house jobs” and asked my son to pick one or two that he would assume responsibility for. I made a chart for him to check off when his job was completed and decided that he could rotate jobs when he got tired of doing the same one.

3. No Lifeguarding.

It takes time to get back into the routine and remember things such as books, homework, and after-school sports equipment/clothing, but you can’t be a lifeguard forever. My son has created a list of everything he needs for the day, and it is posted right next to the front door. It’s his last-minute check that he has everything. Not only is this teaching him to be responsible for his own things, but it also saves me from the dreaded words in the middle of the day, “Mom, I forgot my football cleats.” And it’s bound to happen, but I will not go and get anything he has forgotten. If he knows I will do that this time, he will assume I will do it the next three times and that creates a bad habit.

4. Homework.

The little 10-year-old procrastinator who lives in my house is the complete opposite of me when it comes to getting homework done. I was the little girl who came home, went to her room, and did all her homework so that I could go play with my friends. This little human… not so much. I’ve learned to tackle this challenge differently.

There are two ways I recommend you tackle homework. First, look at the homework assignments and estimate the time it will take to complete each one. Second, encourage them to think about numbering the assignments from hardest to easiest to complete. If you do the time estimation for assignments, and let’s say it comes out to 30 minutes, it may be worthwhile to break up the work by time. You could tell your child, “Let’s spend 20 minutes doing these assignments, and then take a 15-minute break and come back to finish the 10 minutes you have left.” If you choose to tackle homework by difficulty, as a teacher and a mom, I would always encourage you to have your child complete the hardest assignment first. They are still in school-brain mode and information is still pretty fresh.

As a teacher, I always tell my parents on day one that if they find they are spending an obscene amount of time on homework and the frustration, tantrums, and tears are setting in, stop working on it. Homework is not meant to get to this point, and it may be that the child needs extra help or misunderstood the directions and is making it harder than it actually is. At that point, I would encourage you to contact your child’s teacher to discuss.

5. Emotional Rollercoaster.

Going back to school can be a roller coaster of emotions — excitement, fear, anxiety, happiness, and stress. I encourage you to empathize with your child in terms of where they are, how they’re feeling, and why they may be feeling that way. The older my son gets, the less he wants to have lovely chats about his day. Try to come up with conversation starters that will indirectly lead you to the answers. This list from the Positive Parenting Connection website has some good pointers. My child is more of a writer, so I have a journal that I ask him just to write down a comment from the day. He gives me that journal before bedtime. I write down a response and have it sitting on the kitchen island where he will have breakfast the next morning. If he wants to engage in conversation about it, he can. Either way, getting your kids to open up so you can gauge where they are is important. 

Most teachers have read a book at some point in their career titled, The First Six Weeks of School. This book is all about how the first six weeks of school are where the most important routines and fundamental ideals of the class are established. I do feel like it takes six weeks to adjust to being back in school. Give yourself time, give your child time, and good luck with the upcoming school year. It will be a great one!

Our “Dear Parent, From a Teacher” series helps parents obtain the tools and insight to ensure a successful school year for their children. If you are a teacher who wishes to write a guest blog for this series, please email your topic to [email protected]

About the Author

Megan Trumpler is a fifth-grade teacher at Episcopal School of Jacksonville, St. Mark’s Campus. A seasoned educator of 21 years, she has taught second, fourth, fifth, and seventh grades as well as special education. Beyond core academics, Megan has a passion for creatively integrating technology into curriculum.