Transitioning From Summer to Back-to-School

Has your child been laid back all summer and lacked the structure you keep during the school year? Mighty Mommy has 8 expert strategies to help the transition from vacation to back-to-school.

Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #195


You’ve gone to all the back-to-school sales and loaded your kids up with the right tools to get their new year of learning off to a great start. If only it were as easy as sharpening a dozen #2 pencils and sending them off to a carefree, fun-filled year of school!

Parents and teachers that are embarking on yet another new school year know better. It’s an exciting time for sure, but it’s also one of the most stressful seasons that families face each year.


Today I’m going to share some A+ tips that can help ensure a smoother transition from the lazy days of summer to the schedule-oriented months ahead:

Tip #1: Reestablish School Routines

Approximately two weeks before those school bells ring, it’s time to reestablish important routines such as the bedtime and dinner routines.   Make the transition to an earlier bedtime easier by shifting “lights out” time 15 minutes earlier each night so that the kids are hitting their pillows at their regular school bedtime a week before they actually head back into the classroom. Also, use the same strategy to get family mealtimes back on track so that you’re back to eating dinner at school-year time, not summertime. These are two very important basics that most families struggle with during the first few weeks of school. 

Tip #2: Back-to-School Clothes

Most kids love picking out their own outfits for the first few days of school. It’s usually warm enough to still wear some of their summer ensembles, but you should make the transition easier on everyone by moving their skimpier summer wear towards the back of the closet, and moving more appropriate school choices front and center. That way, there won’t be any unnecessary drama when your 7-year-old wants to wear her favorite, strapless sundress. Let the closet do the talking.

See also: Back-to-School Organizing Projects

Tip #3: Lay the Ground Rules for the Upcoming School Year

Help get your children on the same page as you by setting and discussing the rules they need to follow during the school year before the first day. If they have chores (and they should), when do you expect them to be done? How much TV and electronics will you be allowing once school starts? Can friends come over to play before homework is done? If sports are involved, how will your children handle chores and homework? What are your expectations for a morning routine? Sit down together with your children and position this talk as a positive way to help them eliminate as much stress and chaos this upcoming year as possible.

Tip #4: Decide on Homework Spaces

If your child doesn’t have a quiet spot, such as a desk in his bedroom, to tackle homework on a nightly basis, spend some time now thinking together about where he can set up a functioning reading and work space in the house. Choose special places, like corners of rooms, or certain tables or chairs, that are dedicated solely to your kids’ most important task: schoolwork.  

Organize the space in advance with the essentials, such as a good lamp, pencils, a sharpener, crayons and markers, a ruler, paper, and anything else you think he might need to start the school year off on a fresh, orderly note. And don’t forget to set up a system for yourself to keep your children’s school paperwork organized. This may include communications from the teacher, field trip slips, PTA newsletters, and other documents. My colleague the Domestic CEO has tons of useful organizational techniques to help you manage paper clutter.

Tip #5: Set Goals for the School Year

Before the hectic pace of a new school year gets underway, take some time during the last few days of summer to connect with your child and set some goals—both academic and personal, for the new school year. If your son has always struggled with math, talk about ways you can work together to get extra help early on so it doesn’t become a big source of tension throughout the year. 

Is your daughter having difficulty making new friends? Brainstorm ways she can get involved with a new club or activity. Come up with a list of specific goals for each child and celebrate the successes throughout the year.

Tip #6: Get Everything Ready the Night Before

This is one of those routines that will pay off for the entire family. Taking a few minutes the night before school to organize backpacks, homework, lunches, gym clothes, musical instruments, and field trip slips can add years to your life! This small investment can prevent that stressful chaos of wondering if Tommy’s left sneaker is actually buried in his closet or hidden in the toy box. Get your kids involved in the night-before organizing so they too can breathe easier when the morning rush hits.

Tip #7: Get to know the Principals and the Office Staff

This little gem was one of the greatest pieces of advice I received, even before I had children. Whether you have one child or several attending the school, it’s always helpful to introduce yourself to the principal and the school office staff early on. These people will be interacting with your children each day, so help them put a parental face to your kid’s name. Remember—it takes a village to raise a child!

Tip #8: Plan a Fun Family Day Before School Starts

Plan a special family fun day to make the most of the summer and prevent back-to-school blues. Every summer I save one special outing that my kids have wanted to do all summer long, and we do it the last week of summer vacation. This year we’re heading to CoCo Key in Danvers, Massachusetts for a day of indoor waterpark fun.

While back-to-school does present its share of harried and stressful moments, it’s also an exciting time of year to celebrate your child’s individual growth and learning. New skills will be learned, new friendships made, and milestones both small and large will be met throughout the new school year.

Check back next week for more Mighty Mommy tips. If you have a question or a suggestion for a future Mighty Mommy episode, please e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.   

Check out the Mighty Mommy Facebook page where I share lots of quick parenting tips all week long.    You can also follow me on Twitter @MightyMommy or join me on Pinterest.com where you can visit all of my family-friendly boards.

Remember, taking steps now to transition from summer mode to school routines will benefit the entire family! Until next time—Happy Parenting!

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.