Two Essential Back-to-School Checklists

Posted on Jul 14, 2021

Two Essential Back-to-School Checklists

BACK TO SCHOOL. Whether those words prompt panic or joy, we all want to make this school year a great one for the kids. No matter what learning environment your kids are in, use the following two checklists (one for “checking off” and one for “checking in”) to make sure everyone is ready to go!

The “Check-off” List

One week ahead
  • Double-check your school supply stash and pick up any missing items. Be sure to label everything (including jackets, lunchboxes, and water bottles)!
  • Do some menu planning: find some quick and easy options for lunch, snacks, and dinner for the first week of school.
  • Make a trip to the store to pick up needed items.
  • If applicable, help your kids plan outfits for the first week.
  • Schedule a fresh haircut for everyone.
  • If you haven’t been successful at moving to an earlier bedtime and wake-up time, make it a priority. Have kids practice waking independently with an alarm clock.

Some kids are eager for school to start, while others may be dreading it. Make additional plans now to inject a little fun into the first week of school. Hint: those ‘gram worthy “first day of ___” photos, while a valuable memory, might not be what your kids would call fun.

The day before
  • Make sure backpacks are filled and ready to go.
  • Lay out clothes (and any props for those “first day of ___” photos!)
  • Pack lunches and snacks
  • Set the alarm with some extra margin in case something takes longer than expected in the morning.
  • Set aside time to talk and pray with your kids about any first-day excitement or jitters.
The first day of school
  • Smile – you made it!
  • Plan some extra time to ask your kid about their day – over an afternoon snack, dinner, or before bedtime.


The “Check-in” List

Beyond the schedule and supply check-off lists, keep a “check-in” list to monitor the overall health and well-being of family members. Changes in routines and environments can be stressful, but parents can do a lot to help kids work through the anxiety that a new school year can bring. Keep an eye on the following areas throughout the year:

Lines of communication
  • Do your kids view you as open, “safe,” comfortable, and welcoming places for real conversation? If not, what steps can you take to cultivate that atmosphere at home?
  • Remember that kids are watching and listening, even when they don’t look like they are paying attention or give signals (e.g., eye-rolling) that communicate the opposite.
  • Look for little ways to remind them you are rooting for them throughout the year: lunch box notes, middle-of-the-day texts, reconnecting after school and before bedtime. 
Physical health
  • Is your kid showing any outward signs of stress?
  • Have you noticed any unusual or unexpected changes in appearance, energy level, or appetite?
  • Is your kid comfortable with the physical routines of the school day (including being able to navigate the physical layout at school, and to adjust to the new routines of the school year)?
Social health
  • Does your kid show signs of social engagement with their teachers and classmates?
  • What friends (old and new) do they have this year? 
  • Who are they excited about seeing every day?

Transitions to a new school year can take time, but families can help create opportunities for healthy and supportive social connections.

Emotional health
  • How is everyone’s emotional state?
  • Is your kid growing in their ability to process and express their feelings about what they are learning and experiencing (good and bad)?
  • Assessing emotional well-being can be challenging with kids, especially with generic questions like “How was school?” Try some of these questions instead. 
Spiritual health

A living and dynamic faith has a huge impact on the other areas listed above.

  • Is your kid connecting with God and with others on their own?
  • Does your family schedule reflect the priority of spiritual health?
  • Do you have some simple family routines and rhythms that keep God at the center, like praying, reading the Bible together, and attending church regularly? Check out the Parent Cue App for some terrific weekly activity and devotional ideas for all ages and stages.

As you maintain the “check-in” list, be sure to maintain a realistic perspective and support for yourself, too. Re-entry into the school year can mean major changes for everyone, and it should be handled with grace. Whether you are making celebratory plans with other parents, or bracing for tears (yours, not theirs) in the carpool lane, make sure you have the support you need to make this the best school year yet. 

Find additional resources through our KIDS CO. ministry, here.

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