It’s August, the time of year when everyone’s thoughts turn back to school. While we still have a few (hopefully sunny) weeks left of summer, you need to start thinking about how to prepare your kids for a successful academic year.

For some kids, back to school is an exciting time to get some new shoes, shop for colorful supplies, and compare class assignments with friends. For other children, however, this is a time of anxiety and dread.

Will I know anyone in my class?
Will my teacher like me? Will I like her?
Am I going to bomb math again?
I barely survived Spanish last year. I know I’m not ready for Spanish II.
I procrastinated on my summer assignments, and now I don’t know if I can finish.

You can address this kind of back-to-school anxiety with some easy steps to ease the transition in the weeks ahead.  Here’s what we recommend:

1. Keep a positive attitude.  Even if you are also dreading school (and the ensuing homework battles), don’t model negativity for your child. Be positive and encouraging. Remind your child of the good things, such as seeing friends each day and playing at PE.  Tell your child that the year is a new beginning, and you are confident he can succeed.

2. Involve your child in the preparation.  Let your child open the school mailers, and have her mark the calendar with important dates (such as Open House). Make a shopping list with your child, and when you can, let him pick out the colors of his notebook or the style of his lunchbox. Little things like this give your child a sense of control and excitement about school.  

3.  Ease back into school routines.  If your kids have been staying up late and sleeping in, now is the time to start adjusting the schedule so you don’t have to do it all at once on Labor Day weekend. Same thing goes with meal schedules and other household routines.  Has your child been reading this summer? Make it a part of her daily routine now.  Everyone fares better if the first week of school doesn’t come as a mental and physical shock.

4. Consider summer tutoring.  If your child’s back-to-school stress is related to a history of difficulty in school, do what you can to make sure he starts of strong this year. For many kids, the right thing is a few hours of summer tutoring. This can offset “summer brain drain” and also give your child a jump start to the curriculum for the fall.  Nothing eases anxiety like early success and confidence.  We have learned that a little summer tutoring – being proactive – is more effective, less stressful, and cheaper than playing catch-up in September.