School bells chime

Tips for a smooth back-to-school transition

By Barbara Pierce

back to schoolBack-to-school time is just around the corner. This can be one of the most stressful times of the year for both kids and parents.

Most of us don’t really like change. Going back to school after a relaxed summer is a big change.

“With fall just around the corner, I’ve got mixed emotions about school starting again,” says mother Bethany Hardy online. “Although it will be nice to no longer have to plan 12-hour stretches of entertainment, this anxiety-prone mom is dreading the return of schedules and stress.”

Here are some suggestions to help parents make a healthy transition from summer fun to autumn responsibilities.

“To get your kids back into the routine of getting up early, start a week before school begins,” advised Nicole Perretta. The mother of children aged 9, 7, 6, and 10 months, Peretta is the president of the New Hartford Parent Teacher Association Council.

“Seven-thirty in the morning comes around pretty quickly when you’re used to those late summer nights and late summer mornings,” she said.

Ease back into the routine of getting up on time to eat breakfast, get dressed and ready to go out the door with the necessary items for the school day.

It’s a myth that kids will go to sleep when they are tired and that they don’t need a fixed bedtime. That’s like assuming that they’ll stop eating ice cream when they’re full.

After the laid-back summer days of sleeping in, your kids will need to reset their internal clocks. Move their bedtime back by one to two hours every few days, and wake them up one to two hours earlier. It could be rough going at first, but is easier than doing it in just one day, especially when that day is the anxiety-causing first day of school.

Stick to this plan on weekends also, so you don’t throw off their internal clocks, making the first day of school an even worse drag.

— Don’t neglect the routine of mealtimes. Younger children especially need to adapt to new meal routines before the school day demands it of them.

Plan meals and snacks to accustom little ones to rituals of the school day before the school year begins.

— Plan breakfasts and lunches for the first week.

— Plan their outfits for the first few days, and lay them out for them.

Navigate schedules

— The school year floats on a sea of schedules — school functions, lunch menus, Scout meetings and music lessons (see it here). Nothing calms school year chaos like Calendar Central: a centralized site for all family calendars and schedules. It is a one-stop shop for family time management.

— Form is less important than function. A paper calendar with large squares lets you enter information easily. White board calendars are easy to revise when necessary. Color-coded entries for each family member help keep everyone’s life straight.

— Post the family event calendar in a public place. Add school lunch menus, class assignment sheets, sports practice schedules, etc. to the calendar.

— Make a practice run to get kids to school on time. You don’t want to find out on the first day that it takes longer to get to the bus stop than you thought.

There’s a positive link between how involved parents are and their child’s improved performance in school. As much as your schedule permits, take an active role in the school community — going to PTA meetings, coaching extracurricular activities, chaperoning field trips, and assisting in the classroom.

“The PTA is a fantastic organization,” said Perretta. “An organization that advocates for all students in all areas, and provides support for parents.”

Perretta encourages all parents to find out about the PTA for their schools.

“There’s no time commitment; it’s completely up to you how involved you want to become. Join and do what you can. Most schools have monthly meetings. If can’t get to the meeting, ask to see the minutes,” she said.

“To find out about the PTA at your child’s school, ask the administration, or go to the website for New York State PTA ( This website has a lot of good resources and a lot of good information,” Perretta added.

“Raising children is a team effort, and students benefit from an educational team involving our schools, our community and our families,” says Robert Nole, superintendent of New Hartford School District, online.

“Research shows that the more parents get involved in their child’s education, the higher level of success that student can achieve. Parent engagement is paramount, and with it, there’s no telling how far your child can go,” Nole said.

“What’s the best way to get involved? Talk to your child’s teacher and school office to see what you can do. Our schools welcome you to pitch in, often with seemingly small tasks that can have far-reaching results,” Nole added.