5 Essential Tips for Back to School

The first week of school went by in the blink of an eye. This time of year can be an exciting and happy one as well as a sad and anxious for both parents and kids. The transition from summer fun to classroom rigour can sometimes trigger mixed emotions, which are often accompanied by challenges associated with making new friends, establishing a relationship with a new teacher, meeting more difficult academic demands and standards, etc. If the transition is a bit longer and is a bit harder than anticipated, here are a few of our essential tips that can help make second, third and fourth weeks of school more successful!

Back to School Tips 2016

1. Set up a few goals and rewards for the year

Setting some reasonable goals for the school year sets the tone and gives clear expectations that can lead to a successful academic year. Goals could revolve around completing assignments and turning them in, getting ready for school on time, good reports on behaviour at school, and getting to bed on time. Each family will have their own views on what is important; it is highly recommended that you meet as a family to work these out. You can have individual goals for each child, and one common family goal related to all the children. Rewards can take the form of short or long term (extra screen time/outdoor playtime vs. dinner at a favourite restaurant/visit to the movies). The key is making sure the goal is reasonable and obtainable.

In addition to rewards, provide praise and encouragement. Teach your child how to feel good about achievement on his or her own. When success is not achieved, be their coach and teach or re–teach strategies and behaviours that can increase the likelihood of success.

2. Agree on a morning routine and afternoon routine 

Getting the day off to a good start can set the tone for the day for the whole family. If you haven’t done so already, we suggest that you discuss when everyone needs to be out the door at your next family meeting. List all the things that need to take place to make this happen, then figure out how much time each task will take. From there, determine a schedule and what time each person needs to get out of bed. Once you have a plan, give it a dry run to see if it is workable. You could use a stopwatch to see if the goal can be met. Make any necessary adjustments and then post the schedule so everyone can see it. Consider a once–a–week family activity to celebrate if you are successful for a week.

Afternoons can include after–school activities, chores, homework, play time, computer time, reading, evening meal and getting ready for bed. While mornings are usually the same from day–to–day, you may have to make a schedule that varies for each day of the week. Again, get input from the family and revise as needed.

Family mealtime has been found to very beneficial to all members of the family. Try to schedule the evening meal so everyone can sit around the table and interact with each other. Start using the “roses and thorns” approach to encourage interaction. Each family member shares one positive experience (rose) and one not so positive experience (thorn) when it is their turn to share.

3. Meet with your child’s teacher 

Make arrangements to meet with your child’s teacher as soon as possible. If your child has an IEP then you can meet to discuss how you can best work with the teacher to implement the plan in their classroom. If the school is not aware of your child’s special needs or learning difficulties,  just meet as an interested parent first.

During the meeting, find out about any major projects or other assignments that are coming up during the year. Learn about the teacher’s expectation for homework. Find out how you can communicate with the teacher to keep track of completed and outstanding assignments. Showing that you are interested and want to play an active, supportive role can form a relationship that can help keep your child on track and make it easier to work out problems if the need arises.

4. Work with your child to set up a study schedule

Once you know what to expect for homework (ideally after meeting with your child’s teacher), you can work with your child to establish a homework routine that works for all concerned. Decide if your child will have free time before homework. Agree to the time homework should begin and a schedule for completing daily or weekly assignments for each subject as well as a plan to complete any larger projects. If your child has a lot of homework, you may want to schedule some brief breaks in between subjects.

Decide how you will be involved as far as checking for accuracy and completeness. Develop a system that works for you for keeping track of assignments and their completion. Some parents use a notebook or have a chart where they check off each assignment. Also, develop a system to help your child remember to turn in the completed assignments.

5. Be sure to schedule “fun time” with your child on a daily basis

Make the time, even if it is 10 – 20 minutes daily to do something fun with your child. Find out what your child likes as well as suggest new things they might come to enjoy as well. Playing a short game, making something together, reading a story, going for a walk, tossing a ball or anything else that works for you and your child and family will strengthen the bond. When your children are close in age, spending time together is great, but from time–to–time also make time for one–to–one as well.

Finally, take one day at a time. Take time for yourself to relax during the day and appreciate the small, good moments whenever possible. This recharges your battery and restarts your brain—and helps you find renewed joy in your child, in being a parent and in life in general.



Nadia Barakeh is currently completing her Master’s degree in Psychology at Adler University in Toronto. She obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Guelph with emphasis in Psychology. She also holds a postgraduate certificate in Psychological Assessment and another in Brief and Narrative Therapy. Her training has focused on cognitive and behavioural based therapies within an anti-oppressive and integrative framework. Nadia brings together international experience working with diverse populations and over 15 years of counselling work with women and families. Her extensive experience in counselling women and their families has led to program planning and development in the areas of positive parenting and family therapy. She is trained in conducting motor vehicle accidents assessments and is currently receiving her training in psychoeducational assessments. In addition to English, Nadia also speaks Arabic and French. Click here to learn more about Nadia.