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Aug 08, 2016

by Rhonda Fitzsimmons and Sara Blomeling DeRoo

Every August, parents share their children’s feelings of excitement and anxiety when they hear the phrase “back to school.” For the adults, our focus is the preparation. We tell ourselves we will organize their closets, sharpen their extra pencils, sort their socks, and set their alarm clocks! Except that when that first day rolls around, we’re lucky if we’ve cleaned out a dresser drawer. 

Parents fostering children who are headed back to school may need to take some extra steps to prepare themselves and their child for the school year.

The tips below can help any family stay organized, but establishing a routine can particularly help a fostering family when everything about the back-to-school transition is new.

Here are six tips to help you feel more prepared:

  • Tackle the supply list early. Include the kids so they can get excited and choose the color of their own notebooks. If you’re able to pick up extra supplies, engage the kids in donating to others. NOTE: Many organizations—including Bethany’s Grand Rapids, Michigan, office—collect and distribute free school supplies to help families in need. Inquire at your local office to learn where these supply drives are taking place in your community.
  • Take advantage of your school’s open house or registration night. Do one more walk through, meet the teachers, play on the playground, and confirm where your child will be waiting for you or for the bus at the end of the day—anything that can help ward off those first-day jitters!
  • Establish an evening and morning routine, and stick to it! Predictable familiarity helps kids adjust to new situations faster and easier. Walking through tasks and establishing a routine helps them visualize the process and feel more confident about getting things done themselves.
  • For a calmer morning, let small things go. Matching socks, for example. Better to send the kids out the door with a smile and a hug than starting the day grumpy over something like a mismatched pattern. Are the socks in the same color spectrum? Call it a win.
  • Enforce bedtime. Pediatricians agree that a good night’s rest is one of the best tools you can give your child to be successful in school. NOTE: The National Sleep Foundation recommends 9–11 hours a night for children ages 6 to 13.
  • Keep a positive “patter” about school. In your daily conversations, weave questions like:
    • “What sort of after-school snacks should we try to have in the house for you? Maybe we can plan a special first-day snack.”
    • “What sorts of things will you be looking for in new friends from your class?”
    • “When do you think you’d like to do your homework, before or after dinner?”

These small things can help children feel a little bit of control about starting a new school year. Our attitude in how we approach the school year as adults helps determine theirs.

Coffee cheers to you, parents! Have a great year!

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