Returning to school in the fall is full of anticipation, excitement, to-do lists, and the chance to meet up with friends. For kids and parents, there’s a fair amount of planning involved. With family members working together, the transition can be smooth and even fun. Here’s how.

  • Gradually wean kids off their summer schedule of sleeping in and staying up late to something that approaches a school schedule. Time and scheduling are the two elephants in the room when it comes to preparing for school. Keep lots of clocks, timers, and alarms around to create more awareness about time, and for serious slackers, set clocks ahead ten minutes to create an extra buffer against lateness.
  • Sit down with your kids and have them put forward a couple of academic goals for the semester. They don’t have to be grade-related. Ask them to fill in the blank to the following sentence: This semester I’d like to _______________.
  • For younger kids, this might mean visiting their school or new classroom in advance or meeting their new teacher. For older kids, orientation always helps ease those first days of anxiety among new faces.
  • Discuss and arrange after-school activities or programs. While they might insist otherwise, kids thrive when they have a lot to keep them busy. If kids have a chance to choose those after-school activities, chances are pretty good that they’ll be more interested and involved than if they’re thrust into a program to keep them out of the house for a couple more hours.
  • Establish a quiet zone or quiet zones at home in which kids can work on homework, without the distractions of TV, videos, music, etc.
  • Model good behavior. If kids see parents adhering to a schedule and benefiting from that schedule, they’ll follow suit.
  • Play to kids’ strengths. Not all kids learn the same way or study the same way. Some kids might need to come home from school and take an hour breather before diving into an activity or homework. Another child might prefer to continue through the afternoon in anticipation of downtime later in the day. Help manage time appropriately.
  • Before shopping for school supplies, take an inventory of what might be leftover from the previous year. There’s no point in overbuying.
  • Establish a family calendar. This relates back to scheduling and helps teach kids time management. Family members can address possible time conflicts before they happen.
  • Encourage reading. It’s late in the summer, but getting kids into the habit of reading—anything from the comics, novels, nonfiction, a newspaper (do they still exist?)—is a good habit that will last a lifetime.
  • Screen time and play time: There’s even time for recreation. Work out time with your kids, don’t leverage leisure time as a reward for homework or chores around the house. Kids need free time, but they should have a say in how they earn it and use it.

So dust off those backpacks, charge up those laptops. Yellow school buses are just around the corner.