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If your family is anything like ours, you’ve probably experienced the highs and lows of the back to school season. No matter what age your children are, it seems like the back to school to-do list gets longer every year. Going back to school can be stressful, for children and for parents. Whether your children are keen as can be or drag their feet, here are five tips that can help you manage back to school anxiety.

1. Enroll your children in after-school programs.

Many children find it easier to go back to school when they have something fun to look forward to at the end of their day. Generally, the most convenient and cost-effective programs are offered by the school, so reach out to the school for a list of clubs, sports, or activities. A lot of after-school programs are focused on sports, but don’t worry if your child doesn’t enjoy chasing a ball around. There are plenty of other ways for your child to stay active, like yoga, rock climbing, martial arts, or gymnastics! Furthermore, there are other programs like pottery classes, theatre groups, sewing lessons, and even ninja training to keep them busy! We find it helpful to assess the feasibility of programs before mentioning them to our children. The last thing you want is to have your child set on a class that’s out of your budget or is an hour drive away. Once you have a narrowed down your list to a few possibilities, go over them with your children to see which ones are best suited for them!

2. Shift your children’s’ schedule to “back to school mode” a week before the first day of school.

In our experience, it’s much smoother to get back into the school routine when we ease into it slowly. The week before school starts, try to adjust your morning and evening routines so that they mimic the upcoming school year. Get your children back into the habit of setting out clothes the night before, and set aside time in the afternoon for reading, puzzles, or other quiet brain activities before they actually have to start working on schoolwork. Re-establish the screen time limits that you usually set during school. Take some time to consult with your children about what they might want to pack for lunches and snacks and try to encourage them to start thinking about tomorrow’s lunch the day before.

3. Update your family calendar.

We’ve seen tons of great family calendars on Pinterest that you can decorate, colour-code, and display prominently in your home. These calendars are a great way to keep track of everyone’s commitments and keep your children involved in managing their schedules. However, if you find it difficult to maintain a calendar like this, don’t worry! There are plenty of other options, such as iHomework or myHomework which are phone applications that are designed to keep track of school deadlines. Many schools will also provide agendas for their students, so encourage your children to get in the habit of planning their daily, weekly, or monthly commitments!

Arrange playdates with some of your children’s friends to re-establish social ties.

One of the biggest things that our children look forward to at the start of the year is being with their friends again. That said, sometimes they get nervous about seeing everyone after a summer apart. If possible, try to arrange to playdates with a few of your children’s friends before the first day of school. This will give your children and their peers an opportunity to talk about any worries for the new year, but it will also take some pressure off the first day so that they can focus on processing their new routine.

5. Set aside time with each of your children to talk about what worries them about the school year.

Psychologists say that fear of the unknown is the root cause of most anxiety. This fear can be amplified at transition points like going back to school. Be sure to take time to discuss with each of your children any concerns they have about going back to school or questions about the new environment. You may not be able to answer everything yourself, but you can support them in finding answers if possible. If your child is entering a new school, try to find time to stop by, check out the playground, and find the door your child’s class is supposed to enter. Look at a map of the school to find their homeroom and routes to other important places. If you know what their first-day schedule will be, go through it with them. The more you limit your children’s unknown variables, the more comfortable they will be during their first week back!

We know that going back to school is challenging and we hope that some of these tips help you as they’ve helped us. That said, every family is different. It’s likely that back to school will feel like a whirlwind no matter how much you prepare, so know that you’re doing your best and your children will thrive as long as they feel supported. Happy back to school!

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