Back to School Tips for Bay Area Families

These tips will help Bay Area families go smoothly back to school.

“Do you have your lunch?” I called down the hall to our seven-year-old as she raced her brother to the car. She was too busy laughing to respond, and I was too busy helping my toddler put on his socks and shoes to follow up. I looked around the kitchen, taking in the milky cereal bowls and crushed cheerios, and resolved to take care of the mess when I returned home. The first day of school was here yet again, and out of all of us, I was the least ready for the change, and the most excited about finally getting our household back to normal.

The end of summer vacation can be both a relief and a drag, depending on which side of the parent/child coin you occupy. Parents hope for a smooth transition and look forward to having things on schedule once again, but may still carry doubts about their children going alone into the great wide world. When school is back in session, things become more regulated—and a whole lot busier—as kids get used to their daily schedules once again. However, if your kids spent some time at camp over the summer, this change won’t feel like such a shock, as they’ll remember what it was like keeping up with the daily camp schedule.

Switching gears can be difficult for all parents, whether your child is entering Kindergarten or embarking on their senior year of highschool. From establishing a new routine to dealing with safety concerns and quelling the annual back-to-school anxiety, these tips will help your family adjust smoothly into another successful school year.

Start With a Back to School Routine

As parents, you’ve heard this tip time and time again. That’s because it’s deeply true—and at Kennolyn, we depend on daily routines to keep our campers productive and happy every single day. We hear from many parents that implementing a similar morning and evening routine at home makes back-to-school time proceed more smoothly.

Here’s an example: our bedtime routine at Kennolyn Camps is punctuated by 3 bugle calls, 15 minutes apart. The first means it’s time to head into your cabin, the second means you should be finished with getting ready for bed, and the third signifies “lights out.” When my own kids were younger, we used a timer to replicate this routine. They loved having 15 minutes that they got to manage, and this worked for us at home for a long time.

Wanting to bring a little summer camp nuance into your kids’ daily schedule? Here are some ideas to get you started:

Before School

After School


Start this routine Week 1.

List the tasks they’ll need to complete each morning, in order, and post the list in a prominent location. Wake your children at the same time each morning and help them get into the habit of crossing each item off the list.

Taking things further:

In the morning, try holding your kids responsible for getting dressed independently. (And if your pantry is set up for this, even your youngest can pack lunches independently with guidance!)

Start this routine Week 2.

Homework doesn’t usually start until the second week of school, so you can take your time to prepare them for this new schedule. Have a specific plan ready for when they’ll complete homework, have dinner, and start their bedtime rituals.

Taking things further:

Discuss this routine with your children so they know your expectations! Having a specified number of minutes in mind (or written down) will help all of you stay on track.

Start this routine Week 1.

If you’re aiming to stick to a schedule during the week, your kids are likely to be exhausted by the end. Letting them take it easy will make a big difference at the start of each weekend. Leave some room for fun!

Taking things further:

When Friday rolls around, get ready to surprise your kids with a break! Consider rewarding them with a slightly later bedtime and allowing them to sleep in on Saturday mornings.

While we all know the risks of starting out with a rigid routine, your efforts to structure your family’s time will nevertheless be helpful. Enter these plans with a grain of salt. You and your family will eventually fall into a schedule that fits well for you. Until that point, these ideas can help you keep a measure of sanity during the busy mornings and evenings.

Bonus Tip!

Are your kids grumpy or upset when you pick them up in the afternoon? Consider bringing a snack and some water in the car with you each day. Kids can get dehydrated easily throughout the busy school day, and this extra step in your routine can bring big smiles from the backseat.

Begin the School Year in Safety

Diligent parents are always concerned with safety—whether we’re convincing our children to wear their bicycle helmets or insisting that they call when they reach a friend’s house, these behaviors tend to come naturally. While safety is always at the front of a parent’s mind, the same doesn’t always apply for our kids. Every child is different, and it’s always a good idea to review safety guidelines each year to refresh their memories.

At accredited summer camps across California, and particularly at Kennolyn, safety is the number one priority. We set these guidelines very seriously and ensure that all campers are following the rules at all times. Try applying a measure of firmness to your own safety discussions, in hopes that your children will respond to your seriousness. The areas below can be a starting place for you to discuss with your family:

  • Biking and walking: Even if your older kids roll their eyes at these reminders, there’s no substitute for being safe in transit. At Kennolyn we maintain a strict buddy system rule that can easily be applied to your own family. Remind each child why we need to wear helmets, how to respect crosswalks, and which routes are safe for them to travel on. 
  • On the bus: Your child’s school staff will appreciate you going over these rules at home. Remind your children how to properly enter and exit the bus in case of an emergency, as well as how to cross the street when approaching or leaving the bus. Help them to value their bus driver and to show them respect and appreciation.
  • When alone: Work with each of your children to memorize their address, your phone number, and the names of their emergency contacts. In the age of smartphones, it’s rare for anyone to memorize a phone number. But for our kids, this skill is crucial in case of an emergency. Maintaining a healthy distance from strangers is helpful, but also help your child understand who they can reach out to when they’re alone and need help. At Kennolyn, trusted staff members are always safe to ask for help. Similarly, I encourage my kids at home to ask a teacher for help, or to ask another mom with kids who happens to be nearby.

Safety is a serious concern for parents, which is why it’s so important to discuss often with your children. Having these conversations may help ease some of the anxiety you have about sending your kids to school for another year.

Bonus Tip!

Walk or bike alongside your child for the first few days of the school year, and slowly allow them to get further ahead of you as they grow comfortable. Your presence will be reassuring, and you’ll feel better seeing that they are capable of arriving at school safely and on time.

Soothing Anxiety for Bay Area Kids and Parents

Speaking of anxiety, it’s perfectly normal for kids and parents alike to feel nervous at the start of the school year—just like when our campers get dropped off at their cabins in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s hard to leave your children on their own, to interact in a brand new environment and with a new staff of adults that you may not be familiar with.

If you or your children are dealing with first day of school anxiety, experts recommend using breathing exercises—specifically triangular breathing—to help you regain perspective. (To practice, breathe in for four counts, out for four counts, and gently hold your breath for four more before starting the exercise again.) This strategy works well in the moment and can help you begin constructive conversations about your fears. However, if you’re looking to generally ward off the anxiety that comes from sending your child off on their own, you’ll need to take a couple more proactive steps.

As hard as this sounds, it’s important to remember that your kids need to grow in confidence and independence away from the parental gaze. Experiences like family travel, adopting new and challenging activities, and attending sleepaway camp can all help to grow your child’s confidence (and your faith in their success). Consider asking other parents where they’ve gotten their kids involved in the Bay Area. They might have a great recommendation for a summer camp or soccer league that’s made all the difference for their kids.

Bonus tip!

Start researching summer camps and programs at the beginning of the school year so that you’ll be well prepared to register in early spring. This gives your kids something good to look forward to and helps keep their mind off of the impending school start date.

Enjoying New Beginnings as a Family

Change is always difficult, and can be more so for any member of the family. That’s why setting up comforting routines, refreshing safety discussions, and working to reduce anxiety are all so beneficial for helping kids and parents both make the smooth transition into school once more. Before you know it, your family will be back in the swing of things and taking the school year by storm.

At Kennolyn Camps, we know firsthand how difficult it can be to start something new, both as a child and as a parent. That’s why we structure our summer sleepaway camps, day camps, and family camps around confidence building activities that help campers thrive in the world around them. If you’re interested in learning more about how a stay at Kennolyn could help your kids adjust to the school year, please reach out to us.

Lead image by Flickr user US Department of Education

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