Photo: Amber Kemp-Gerstel via Damask Love

Every new school year brings its fair share of jitters, excitement, and everything in between, but the span of emotions leading into this year are greater than ever. After a year (or more) of balancing virtual or hybrid school, many parents are dusting off lunchboxes and backpacks to send their kids back to school in-person for the first time in over a year. It’s a big deal. But, at least for me, with each new school supply purchased and each lunchbox packed, the nerves slip away and eagerness kicks in. 

A new survey from Juicy Juice found that a staggering 95% of parents say they are excited to return to a sense of normalcy this school year after balancing remote school last year. And I’m one of them! So to celebrate the “yay” moments as I like to call them, I’m sharing some tips to help families stoke the positivity and set themselves up to conquer the school year ahead.

1. Be There for Your Littles
Heading back to school after a year of virtual or hybrid schooling can be a little intimidating for kids. Combat those back-to-school jitters with a little lunchbox note. It’s a great way for parents to inject some encouragement, confidence, and joy into the school day. It’s also a great way to stay connected and let them know you’re thinking of them during the day.

2. Go Easy on Yourself
Daily to-do’s don’t need to weigh you down. For example, don’t try to be the best chef when making school lunches. Lunchboxes can be easy and predictable! Stick with staples like a sandwich, some fruit and veggies, something salty and a maybe a sweet treat. Within these categories you can get creative. Maybe one day it’s turkey and cheese and the next day it’s almond butter with jelly. I give my son Juicy Juice 100% juice boxes because there are so many flavors to choose, it keeps his lunchbox interesting! The more you can simplify the tasks that you have to do multiple times a week, the lighter your to-do list will feel.

3. Leverage Your Resources
With so many children returning to school after a year or more of virtual education, you may notice some emotional difficulties with your child including some anxiety, social troubles, and attention problems. Your child’s school likely has a counselor or psychologist, so don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. But don’t forget to get yourself some help too. Lean on the other parents in your class for support. Even create a parent group chat! As parents, we may feel out of the loop when it comes to the day-to-day activities and events that happen at school, so help each other stay in the know and connected.

4. Play Goes a Long Way
Now that kids are heading back to school, we’re spending less time together, so make your family time count by setting aside a special time where you really connect with each other and just play! Play is the natural language of young children. By playing with your kids without the distraction of your phone or mobile device, you’ll have meaningful conversations, learn what’s on their mind and maybe uncover any difficulties they may be experiencing. This can be just 10 minutes after school before homework, it doesn’t have to be a lot of time to make a big difference!

5. Connect with Others
Take advantage of that parent group chat and schedule some play dates. Connecting with other classroom parents and planning an outdoor play date with other kids who will be in your child’s classroom will help build (or rebuild) that sense of community for parents. For kids who’ve been in virtual school all year, this is a great way to familiarize them with their new classmates and practice some socialization skills.

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