Changing schedules. Supply lists. Forms to fill out. New teachers to meet. Many kids feel lots of emotions about their first day of school, and so do parents and caregivers.
Before the first day
We’re here to help you get organized and reduce your feelings of stress. Use our back-to-school checklist to make sure you and your child start the year off right.
- Talk about and practice any expected changes.
- Sit down and have a conversation about any changes that will be happening this school year.
- If your child is meeting the bus in a new location, visit the bus stop with them a few times before the first day of school.
- For children starting middle or high school, visiting the school and practicing how to walk from one class to another may be helpful.
- Get back into a routine.
- About 2 weeks before school starts, gradually (for example, 15 minutes each day) move your child’s bedtime and wake up time back to what they will be during the school year. Get more sleep recommendations here.
- Sit down and create a schedule for school days together. Talk through expectations for mornings and after school. Once you agree on that, you can start implementing a few weeks before school starts to get into the habit.
- Get organized.
- Have a place designated for your child to work on homework, keep school materials, etc.
- Include your child in picking out supplies, choosing a spot and deciding where to put things away. This helps them learn organization skills.
- Print out the school calendar to help you plan ahead. Also you can use it throughout the year to notice how it may be related to your child’s mood and emotional changes. For instance, you may notice that your child has increased anxiety at the end of a semester. If your child is anxious, see these tips to help them with their anxiety.
- Talk about expectations – yours and your child’s.
- Ask your child what their goals are for the school year. Help them create a plan and strategies for how to achieve those goals.
- Discuss your child’s concerns and excitement about the upcoming school year. Unsure where to start? We have some conversation starters for you.
- Come up with a plan with your child of when and how to ask for help when they need it. This can be school staff or peers, depending on the child’s concern.
- Remind them of your rules and expectations. For example, is your rule that homework be done before screen time?
- Feeling connected to their school is shown to be positive for children’s mental health (CDC, 2022). You can support school connectedness by showing interest in their teachers and school activities.
- Meet their teachers at the start of the school year and talk about your child’s goals, strengths, and areas of growth.
- Take note of school events for families and add them to your calendar. Showing up to events increases children’s feelings of support and connection to their school.
- Encourage your child to get involved in activities outside of schoolwork. Look at the school website together to see what clubs and sports are offered or meet with the school counselor!
- Visit your doctor.
- Make sure your vaccine records and sports physicals are up to date! Routine check-ups are important.
On the First Day
- Make sure your children eat breakfast – our minds and bodies are connected and being hungry can cause irritability or difficulty focusing.
- For young children, going in to meet the teacher with your child may make your child feel more comfortable.
- Taking a few deep breaths (breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth) with them before heading out the door can calm them and you. This is helpful whether they are feeling really excited or nervous.
Get the rest of our Back-to-School Mental Health Checklist by filling out the form below. We'll send you a downloadable version of the whole list that you can share with your family and friends. Plus, you can download a fun “First Day of School” sign that you can fill out and have your child hold for capturing first day of school memories.