Family Matters Blog: First Week of School Survival Guide

By Elaine Wilson

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2010 – Tensions ran high last week as I loaded up the kids and headed out to drop them off at their new school. After a lengthy and complicated process, we had purchased a home in Maryland, which I wrote about in “Blogger Heads Out on House Hunt,” and now we’re tackling this next hurdle of adjustment.

I wasn’t sure who was more nervous – me or them.

On that first day, we walked down the hall, bustling with kids and parents, and stepped into my son’s new classroom. He unloaded his new school supplies, found his seat and sat there, arm casually draped on the back of the chair, quietly surveying the room to get the lay of the land.

“Bye Mom,” he said with a cool-guy dismissive wave. I opted out of my usual hug and kiss to allow him his 2nd grade dignity.


Off to my daughter’s 3rd grade classroom. She’s much shyer than my son, so I stayed a while until she started chatting with another student, then beat feet for the door.

As I headed down the hall, lined with lockers adorned with brightly colored name tags, I took a huge sigh of relief. The initial entry, the hardest part in my mind, was over. It should all be downhill from here, I hoped.

The rest of the week went fairly well, with a few inevitable rough spots. Each night, I made a point of discussing the day with my children, the pros and cons, and my son invariably would draw a comparison to his old school.

“I liked Waynewood better because …,” he’d begin and then continue on with a detailed description of the better food, nicer friends, less homework, and so on.

I wanted to remind him that he did the same thing when he started at Waynewood two years earlier, but bit my tongue. It doesn’t hurt to vent.


I’ve been learning a lot on this most recent move, the fourth for my children so far. While preparation and organization are vital for a successful first week of school, communication has become No. 1 on my priority list.

I’ve made it a priority to sit down one-on-one with my children to discuss their feelings and concerns these past few weeks. I let them pour out their hearts and then gently steered them toward thinking positive when they start delving too far into the negative.


And I’ll continue to do so until they’re firmly entrenched into their new school. It’s the least I can do after their fourth move in six years.

This move has reminded me yet again of how tough adjustments can be, and given me an even deeper appreciation for military families who tackle these issues every couple of years or so. Moving isn’t easy, particularly when compounded with adjustments to new schools.

I wanted to share some tips I found to help parents successfully navigate the first week of school, courtesy of the National Association of School Psychologists website.

Many of these tips will prove helpful, not only on the first week of school, but year-round.

Back-to-school tips for parents:

  • Clear your schedule. If possible, postpone business trips, volunteer meetings and extra projects. You want to be free to help your child acclimate to the school routine and overcome the confusion or anxiety that many children experience at the start of a new school year.
  • Make lunches the night before school. Older children should help or make their own. Give them the option to buy lunch in school if they prefer and finances permit.
  • Set alarm clocks. Have school-age children set their own alarm clocks to get up in the morning. Praise them for prompt response to morning schedules and bus pickups.
  • Leave plenty of extra time. Make sure your child has plenty of time to get up, eat breakfast and get to school. For very young children taking the bus, pin to their shirt or backpack an index card with pertinent information, including their teacher’s name and bus number, as well as your daytime contact information.
  • After school. Review with your children what to do if they get home after school and you’re not there. Be very specific, particularly with young children. Put a note card in their backpack with the name(s) and number(s) of a neighbor who is home during the day as well as a number where you can be reached.
  • Review your child’s schoolbooks. Talk about what your child will be learning during the year. Share your enthusiasm for the subjects and your confidence in your child’s ability to master the content. Learning skills take time and repetition. Encourage your child to be patient, attentive and positive.
  • Send a brief note to your child’s teacher. Let the teachers know that you’re interested in getting regular feedback on how and what your child is doing in school. Be sure to attend back-to-school night and introduce yourself to the teachers. Convey a sincere desire to be a partner with your children’s teachers to enhance their learning experience.
  • Familiarize yourself with the other school professionals. Make an effort to find out who it is in the school or district that can be a resource for you and your child. This can include the principal and front office personnel; school psychologist, counselor and social worker; the reading specialist, speech therapist and school nurse; and the after-school activities coordinator.


For our seasoned movers, if you have any great starting-school tips, don’t hesitate to share.

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