As summer comes to a close and the back-to-school buzz begins, it’s only natural for kids to have mixed emotions: sadness over summer’s end, anxiety about adjusting to new schedules and, sure, excitement about seeing their friends and making new ones.
Parents experience an emotional roller coaster of their own, with some of the most intense worry centering on whether our kids have the confidence they need to handle the ups and downs of the school year — starting with the highly anticipated first day.
If you’re already feeling a flurry of concern for your favorite little student, take heart. There are plenty of simple ways to make sure your kid heads into the school year feeling loved and full of self-esteem. Here are a few suggestions for adding some pep to their step.
1. Wake them up with a one-of-a-kind breakfast
Whip up some healthy homemade pancakes and let your little one pick their favorite fresh fruit as a topping. Or rope them into the fun by asking for their help pouring the batter into silly shapes (these Minion pancakes are beyond adorable). By sending your child off to school with a tummy full of nutritious yet totally treat-like food — plus a head full of good memories from the morning — you’re giving them a solid start.
2. Stash something beloved from home in their backpack
Give your child the head’s up that you’ll be sending a little piece of home to school with them — nothing too big and certainly nothing that would qualify as contraband, but something that will instill them with the comfort of family every time their hand brushes against it as they reach into their backpack.
3. Send a special note in their lunchbox
When I was growing up, this was my all-time favorite thing to find in my lunchbox. My mom always had a sixth sense about days I needed to see her handwriting and “hear” her words the most. So wait until your kid isn’t looking and write something you know will put a smile on their face. It’s the perfect way to send them a discreet confidence-booster in the middle of the day.
4. Plant a kiss in the palm of their hand
Here’s another super-sweet but subtle idea — open up your child’s little hand and kiss right in the middle of their palm. Then close their hand back up around the kiss. Tell them that you’ve planted a kiss, and that love will continue to grow all day long. Anytime they start to feel nervous or sad, all they have to do is plant their hand on their cheek to get a kiss from home.
5. Have a morning mantra session in the mirror
If you haven’t yet seen that viral video of a dad named Ron Alston motivating his daughter with morning mantras, it’s a must-watch. Each morning, he brings little Aliya to a mirror and has her repeat empowering phrases like, “I am strong,” “I am smart,” “I am beautiful” and “I am respectful.” His logic? “The world will try to tear [children] down in many ways, but they must know they are unique and great in their own way.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. The good vibes of this ritual are sure to rub off on you too.
6. Invite their friends over for a pre-school playdate
No matter how much time your child spent with neighborhood friends over the summer, there is typically a lull shortly before school starts back. As such, heading into those halls alone can feel, well, really lonely… not to mention intimidating. Hosting a playdate with some of your kid’s classmates serves as an easy reminder that they have people who love them at home and school.
7. Celebrate the school day
When you pick your child up from school, commemorate making it through their first day and kicking off the new year by doing something outside of the typical routine. Maybe that means squeezing in some quality time at a local park. Or perhaps it looks like hitting up the local ice cream parlor. During this celebratory time, ask them about their highs and lows for the day. In doing so, you’ll create an open channel of communication with your kid that underscores they can always come to you.