August is here and the time for kids to return to school is quickly approaching. Normally, this is a time of year when parents excitedly await having their kids out of the house and back in school. This year has brought a mix of emotions and uncertainty. It’s safe to say that this school year will be unlike any other in recent memory. There are so many different factors and variables that it’s safe to say that the only thing that is certain is that things will change. Change is hard, and especially when it is so impactful on our kids, family schedule, and something that is usually as consistent as school. My family has been no stranger to the impacts of COVID and school. This year, my kids will be starting kindergarten, third grade, and fourth grade. Our district is offering parents the choice of either online learning or a hybrid schedule (half time in class, half time online). Our family has chosen the hybrid schedule because that is what works best for our family, but it certainly doesn’t work best for everyone! Making the decision to have your children attend in-person or remotely is hard, and there really is not a one-size fits all approach. To be honest, I don’t know if any of us will know what the best decision is until we have the luxury of looking back in hindsight. Regardless of how school looks for your family this year (or even just right now), there are some things that you can do to help prepare for a successful school year:

Change your Expectations

At this point, we know that the school year is going to be significantly different from years past. Adjusting your expectations and avoiding comparing this year to previous years can help you have a more realistic mindset and avoid disappointment. Is it hard to know that our kids will likely be missing out on some of our favorite activities? Absolutely! When we set realistic expectations for this school year, teachers, our children, and ourselves, we set ourselves up for a more successful and enjoyable year. Now, more than ever, it’s important to give ourselves and others some grace and realize that it’s okay if things aren’t perfect. It may be helpful to have an honest discussion with your kids about what they can expect so that they can have realistic expectations, too.

Adults Set the Tone

The COVID pandemic is a new situation for everyone, but especially for our kids, as they have likely never experienced such a significant event in their lives. Our children are looking to the adults in their lives to help them know how to react and respond to this new school year. If our kids hear their parents and other trusted adults talking about how frustrated and angry they are with their school’s reopening plans, they will become frustrated, too. The last thing I want is my kids going into the school year feeling nervous, fear, or frustration! If we can talk about returning to school in a positive way and express that our school leaders and teachers are doing the best they can to make things successful, our kids will pick up on that and are more likely to share that view.

Get Your Kids Involved

Our kids may be more nervous than usual about returning to school. Things ended very abruptly last school year, and they may not know quite what to expect or have a harder time getting into the routine of school than normal. You can help your kids get ready for a return to school by getting them involved. Whether your kids are returning to in-person school or online school, find a way to get them involved in the preparation. If your kids are returning to school, let them pick out their own masks that reflect their personality (our family likes the masks from Old Navy, but many different companies are selling them and you can find some custom masks on Etsy). If your kids are doing online school, let them get school supplies that are only used when they are working on their school work. Allowing them to make small decisions can help empower them and feel more excited about returning to school.

Get Ready for Change

If there’s one thing that we can count on, it’s change! I am expecting that the way we do school will change multiple times this year. Start to prepare for change now, rather than waiting until something happens. When you proactively prepare, you set yourself and your family up for success. Being proactive, instead of reactive, will help you succeed this year! You can prepare for change by setting up contingency plans – for example, what will you do if your school moves from in-person to online? What actions do you need to take if your child gets exposed and needs to quarantine? What will you do if your child or someone in your house gets COVID? Talking about these possibilities now and making a plan now will make things much easier for you if and when they happen.

Do you have kids that are getting ready to go back to school? If so, what is your family doing to get ready?