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Raising Lexington: Back to School Transition

It’s time to start transitioning kids from the lazy days of summer to the structure of school days.

I had been declaring my annoyance with those July back to school ads all over Facebook and Twitter, but will admit now that the reality of it had crossed my mind even then.

With my daughter starting Kindergarten in two weeks and my son continuing in his school without his big sister in tow, I knew I had to do more than the usually, “Wake up kids, it’s a school day”.

Come to think of it, I needed a little transitioning too! My kids had the same school routine for years now. Instead of waiting until the last minute to get my kids ready for the school routine, I decided to ease them into it ahead of time.

I started by talking to the kids about what the fall would bring -- a new school for my daughter ( here we come) and not having his big sister at school for my son. We talked about all the fun things those changes would bring and some of the new responsibilities they would have.

My daughter asked a lot of questions about her new school, so I decided a trip to the school would be a good idea. Our first stop was the playground. We all went as a family and, as it turned out, other parents were there too. We got some inside scoop and an earful about how much they love the school. Since we missed the official school tour for new students, I called the school and was lucky enough to get a tour and see the classrooms in action. My daughter loved this and my son was now looking forward to the day he would start Kindergarten.  

Also, check out your town’s school resources. Here in Lexington, we have LexFun and they have a great Kindergarten Connection program that offers play dates at each of the elementary schools, so kids and parents can say hello (among many other wonderful events). We had a great time and my daughter met some of her new classmates. The day before school starts, both children’s teachers will be in their classrooms setting up and welcome students to come by and say hello. These organized activities with your child’s school are a great way to get them refocused on school. I recommend taking advantage of all of them.

My next step was getting all their gear in order. When the packet from the kids' schools arrived in the mail we opened it together and went through all of the things they would need for their first day back. I read the welcome letters from the kids' teachers to them, told them the names of the kids in their class and asked them to help me gather the family pictures requested for the classroom family collage. We walked into town with our list in hand and picked up the binders, markers and glue sticks and maybe a few other non necessities, like ice cream at . We cleaned out back packs, tried on shoes and ironed on name tags. And although it is still warm, we picked out a few fall outfits, just in case cooler weather came knocking early.

At this point in my back to school transition plan, we were having a lot of fun. That might be about to change.

Back to school also means back to a more firm schedule, at least in my house. I don’t do a whole lot of (good) parenting after 7 p.m., so staying up late at my house might be 8 p.m. I get a lot of strange looks when I tell this to some parents, but my kids are still very young and sleep is king in my house.

A few weeks before school starts, I keep an eye on bedtime and start pushing it back to where I want it on school nights. My daughter has started a little countdown to school on the family calendar, so we update that when I declare clean up time and the moans and groans begin. I have found that black out shades are a parent’s best friend when it’s light out and the kids need to go to sleep. I often close up the shades before they even get upstairs and set the stage for sleep.

Along with the sleep schedule, getting the food schedule in order is important, too. A quick and super nutritious breakfast at wake up, a kid-friendly packable lunch and a family dinner are all ways to keep the kids energized, focused and connected. Do a casual trial run with these meals and see what works so you’re not in full freak-out mode on back to school day.

Oatmeal is a huge hit on school days in our house. We use the plain variety and then pack with all sorts of hidden gems, like wheat bran and flax meal. My kids add a little honey and cinnamon and down the hatch it goes. It’s been their weekday breakfast for years now. We leave the fancy stuff for the weekends when we have more time. Do the same for lunch so you know it will get eaten and not tossed in the trash. I don’t know about your kids, but mine have a marked deterioration in focus when they don’t eat.

Transitioning back to school doesn’t have to be the root canal you’ve been avoiding all year, so jump in and have some fun with it! Get the kids involved, talk with them and set a good example by getting excited yourself.

I remember quite a few of my first days of school and they were all marked by smiling teachers, good friends and learning cool new stuff.

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