Summer is not over, yet it's time to formulate a back-to-school plan.
They key to making a smooth transition back into the school routine is preparedness, according to Dr. Julie Gurner, a Philadelphia-based psychologist. Gurner believes the focus for parents should be to make the back-to-school experience positive for their children.
"You are setting up for success by gleaning the benefits of being prepared," said Gurner.
One of the biggest challenges to the back-to-school routing is transitioning your child's sleep pattern from staying up late watching television, to getting up early and eating breakfast. But, it's worth the effort to start dial-backing bedtimes now. That will result in less stress later, Gurner insists.
Teacher Liz Meyer of Germantown has begun discussing and asking her daughters to imagine what their school year will be like, talking about their hopes and fears. Her daughters Effy, 11, and Fudia, 14, are entering middle school and high school this year.
Meyer started those back-to-school conversations in July, and felt like it was "lessening the joy of summer," but concedes it's important to at least attempt to start the conversations as a way of easing back into the school year.
"The last couple of years as the girls got older, summer routines shifted away from the norm. Bedtimes and wake-up times changed. Our days became less structured," said Meyer.
"So, the first part of back-to-school prep is attempting to get our routines somewhat back in place. Earlier to bed and earlier to rise, regular dinner times, some school work. I don't enjoy doing this!"
There is a balance to be struck between summer fun and getting ready for the first day of school.
To help ease a child's transition into school, Gurner shares these additional tips: ride the public transportation route together, buy school supplies together, purchase an extra pack of tokens and put your child's bus schedule in their bag.
Lunch bridges a child's day at school, put time and thought into your child's lunch plan.
Parents may start pre-making meals (or at least plan for a menu of meals) and put dinners in the freezer. Create a lunch menu that is easy, or plan to have your child buy their lunch if easier.
"I loathe making lunches each day, but I must. At least I know they are eating nutritious food!" said Meyers.
Planning empowers all members of the household, even the littlest ones.
Parents of children in daycare and pre-school are also looking forward to new beginnings. Laura Hoover of Chestnut Hill has been a stay at home mom for the last 2.5 years, but now it's time to put Nathan, 2, in nursery school.
Hoover plans to pack his bag at night, leaving his book bag by the door where he can find it. She is shopping at consignment stores, seeking clothing such as extra pairs of gloves that can be put to use come winter-time. She's been preparing for her son's first day of nursery school but also thinking down the road to winter when it's probable he may lose a pair of gloves.
"Even though he's only two and a half, we are getting our act together," said Hoover.
A new school year brings the unknown, even for older students.
Upper Darby High School graduate Meghan Donnelly, 18, decided to go to a big university, Penn State, to start the next phase of her life.
"I'm ready to go away and be on my own," said Donnelly. "I'm really excited to go away and try something new. I'm going to be responsible for my own time management. It's a good chance for me to grow up and be independent."
Looking back on her transition from high school to college, Donnelly recommends that students start to prepare for college early and don't cram it all into senior year. Instead, she says spend your junior year looking at schools.
The takeaway Donnelly would like to emphasize to younger students is that the application process was "very stressful," and it's important to stay organized. An early start to looking at colleges, she says, will help relieve stress.
All this preparation goes a long way, says Gurner, particularly for younger children who may naturally have anxiety and are in need of emotional preparedness.