Back to School: 3 Keys to Preparing as a Family

Back to School: 3 Keys to Preparing as a Family

You know the signs.

The weather is changing.

The email communication has begun.

Unless you’ve been spending the summer unplugged on an uncharted island somewhere (in which case, good for you), you’ve felt this coming for awhile now.

The excitement. The tears. The creeping feeling of dread that wakes you at 3am, wondering about schedules.

And supplies.

And whether this is the year it’s all just too much for your family to pull off.

It’s back to school time, friends.

No doubt, this time of year can be challenging for just about everyone.

It can be challenging for new (or returning) college students…

It can be challenging for those who work with students and families…

(And if you fall into one of those two categories, rest easy: We’ve got posts coming up just for you!)

But, for today, if you’re a parent (or a parent figure), eyeing the calendar with anxiety, excitement, dread, or any combination thereof…

…this post is for you.

Read on for the first installment in our Back to School series…

3 keys to preparing your family for the transition to a new school year:

Start transitioning now

There is no shorter road to defeat than by entering a war with inadequate preparation.

Charles Lindbergh

Let’s be real:

The transition back to school probably won’t be perfect.

But, it doesn’t have to be chaotic either.

The key is getting a jump on the process ahead of time.


  • Do what needs doing. Days away from Day 1 and your kid still needs school supplies? Don’t waste time feeling guilty. Just grab that list and round up what you need. (And maybe reward yourself with something you don’t need. From those baskets at the front with all the other stuff no one needs. You know the ones.)
  • Shift your habits early. Start bumping bedtime up from “summer” to “school-year”. Make a list of snacks and lunches (and easy dinners, while you’re at it!). Talk through the plan for morning and evening routines, and make sure everyone’s on board.
  • Mentally prepare. Take some time (just a few minutes) each day leading up to the start of school, to visualize things running smoothly.

Don’t overdo it

Usually the things we think we need become the very things we need a break from.

Jen Hatmaker

Heading back to school is a busy, often exciting time.

Your kids might be thrilled to head back to school. Or they might be dreading it.

Either way, you’ll be tempted to go big on the celebrations. To mark the occasion and do all the fun things.

Easy does it. When it comes to this particular time of year, less is usually more.


  • First, create calm. All the excitement surrounding the transition back to school? Fun as it can be, it can also set your kids (and the rest of the family) up for major overwhelm. Before you jump into celebrations, try to create a calm and restful environment for your kids to return home to at the end of the day. For example:
    • You can reduce noise, limit screen time, even change up the lighting to be more calming.
    • You can help your child practice self-soothing activities that promote rest and restoration.
  • Next, check in. How was your child’s first day (or week) of school? How are they feeling? What are they wondering about? No need to grill your little one for details– just spend some quiet time talking with them and see what comes up. It’ll let them know you care about what they’re experiencing, and it’ll give you an opportunity to acknowledge and talk through any issues they might bring up.
  • Then, choose a celebration. It’s normal to want to mark important occasions in your child’s life! Just make sure you’re clear about:
    • who/what/why you’re celebrating. Be honest with yourself: Is this all about your child, or does it satisfy a need you have to celebrate?
      • If it’s more for you, and your child doesn’t much care: No worries! Focus your energy on one of the self-care ideas below.
      • If it’s truly all about your child: Guess what? They probably don’t need much in the way of celebration, anyway! Try enlisting their help to choose a fun way to acknowledge this milestone in their life.
    • what kind of celebration is appropriate. You can:
      • plan something small on your own: Maybe it’s a sweet note in your child’s backpack. Or a favorite treat as an after-school snack.
      • enlist your child’s help: Believe it or not, your child doesn’t live on Pinterest. Ask for their ideas about something special you can do as a family to mark the first Friday after the start of school, and you might be surprised by their answers. Pizza and a family movie at home? A sleepover with a friend? Nothing at all? Keep your own opinions in check, be open to their ideas, and decide what’s doable… and what’s not.

Double down on self-care

Taking care of myself doesn’t mean ‘me first’. It means ‘me too’.

L.R. Knost

Repeat this phrase:

“Just because the kids have needs, it doesn’t mean I don’t.” 

Now, say it again. With feeling.

One more time.

Convinced yet?

Now, what are you going to do about it?


  • Go easy on yourself. You have a lot on your plate. You’re doing the best you can. You can’t possibly be expected to meet all the needs of your family during this busy time without taking some time to rest and recharge.
  • Evaluate your self-care. How can you tell if self-care is a priority for you? Pull up your calendar. What’s on it? There’s your answer. 
  • Block time for what you need. So, daily massages aren’t in the cards for you right now? You’re not alone. How about a weekly yoga class? Or an evening walk with your spouse? Or a monthly coffee date with friends? Or some quiet time to read, just for fun? Self-care can be just about anything you need it to be. Enjoy!

Enjoy this post? You might also like:

Seasonal Depression Treatment
Navigating Spring Break as a Family
How to Practice Gratitude When You’re Not Feeling Particularly Grateful


Kids headed back to school? Ready to connect with a therapist?