Chances are your kids have been running around wild and free (or at least freer) this summer.
That can make for a tough transition when it comes time to go back to school. We checked in with some experts for tips on how to make the bittersweet fall transition sweeter on parents and kids.
Get kids acquainted with their new school
If your kid is starting a new school, take a sneak peek. "Most schools have special days before the school year starts that are for visiting. Take this time to go to your child's new school or new classroom," says Diane Lang, a therapist, educator and life coach.
Sally Tannen, director of the Parenting Center at the 92nd Street Y, also recommends doing a trial run of the route you will take to school before the big day.
Transition to bedtime
First, decide on an age-appropriate bedtime. Then, "each day, move your child's summer bedtime 15 minutes earlier, until you reach the newly prescribed bedtime," says Dr. Whitney Roban, a pediatric sleep specialist.
Create a bedtime routine
Re-establish the bedtime routine. "It's important to go back to the bath, reading, going to sleep routine," says Lyss Stern, founder of Divamoms.com.
Make back-to-school shopping a family affair
"The No. 1 thing is to involve kids in plans for back-to-school," says Denise Albert, one half of the parenting duo "The Moms" (TheMoms.com). Albert recommends making school supply shopping and back-to-school clothes shopping a fun outing.
Gradually get them back into school mode
"Don't cram it all in at the end and make the end-of-summer one extended school lesson," warns Eric Messinger, editor of New York Family magazine. Messinger suggests gradually introducing a light quota of work each day.
Set up playdates
"With younger kids beginning nursery or grade school, it helps to reach out to other beginning families," Messinger says. Then kids aren't met with a sea of strange faces when they start school.
Read books about school
Books about going to school for the first time can help kids know what to expect. Messinger suggests "Richard Scarry's Great Big Schoolhouse."
Let them read everything
According to Stern of Divamoms.com, it's important to let your kids read whatever they want over the summer - fun chapter books, school books, even the newspaper.
Describe school around their routines
"Toddlers have no frame of reference as to what school means," Tannen says. "It is important to prepare them in ways they can understand, around their routine."
Hear them out
Instead of telling your anxious kids not to worry about school, make sure they know they have a voice and are being heard. "Work with them to find a solution. You really want to minimize conflict and maximize problem-solving," family therapist Paul Hockemeyer says.
Feed them right
Nutritionist Danielle Schupp says "just getting back on a schedule helps" with healthy eating. For lunch, she recommends a bento-box style meal with cheese, vegetables, dip and a healthy dessert. For snack, think proteins, too. "Cheese sticks are great. And chocolate milk and a banana is a great snack," she says.
Go over Internet safety
"It's important to talk about the Internet and remind kids about online dangers," says Dr. Kevin Campbell. That's a conversation you should be having yearly with your kids, he adds.