Off to School We Go!

Back to School Tips for Parents from SAY San Diego

A message from SAY San Diego President & CEO Nancy Gannon Hornberger

As parents, we may dread or long for the first day of school, and the same is true for our kids. Either way, it’s quite a change after a summer break, typically filled with unstructured time, later morning wake-ups, no daily homework, more friend and family time, and significantly more “screen” time. Here are some tips to make it work a bit better.

Get some structure back in place—but do it positively:

Without pressure or pointing up past problems that may have occurred (like getting up late), start to do a couple of days of rehearsal before that first day. Add a dose of fun; for instance, special breakfasts or early morning outings can help everyone get up and out on the new schedule. One family takes the kids boogie boarding at dawn every day for the week before school starts, to readjust the clock and create an earlier wake-up and lights out routine. Another idea is to set up cubbies or spots in your home where your kids can put everything needed for the school day. Reinforce the good by letting your kids know “now you’re ready to get up early and stay organized.”

Talk about school with confidence and optimism:

Let your kids know that you’ve been thinking about the school year and have every confidence it will be a good one. See what they’ve been thinking. Listen to concerns they may have and provide positive advice to tackle worries. Help to make things predictable by going over the schedule, route to school or transportation, or any other new expectations.

Keep things healthy:

School success is strongly linked to good nutrition and ample sleep. For the first day, and throughout the year, three nutritious meals a day, healthy snacks, and eight hours or more of sleep are essential building blocks for a positive school experience. It’s important as well to keep your own parental stress at bay—kids feed off of parental stress. Stress is reasonable, but it’s better to talk to a spouse or family member, other parents, or other adults, who can truly respond.

Stay involved:

School success is also strongly linked to parents staying interested and involved. It’s important to ask not just about grades, but how things are going and what most interests your kids. Ask how they like their teachers and if they have gotten to know anyone or learned anything new. Listen. Listen. Listen. And, be sure to reinforce positive homework habits—like homework first, then TV.

More info:

The American Academy of Pediatrics has great info online, in English and Spanish, for parents who wish to go more in depth.

SAY San Diego is running a school supply drive to assist families for whom school supplies are financially out of reach. This way their kids will have all the supplies they need to be ready and confident.