Smart Solutions for the 7 Biggest Back-to-School Problems

Tried-and-true tips to tackle thorny back-to-school issues

family breakfast - school morning
Conquer busy school mornings with some prep the night before. Pascal Broze/Getty Images

Back-to-school time is a fairly intense period of transition for most families. Having to adjust back to morning routines, early bedtime, and homework means parents and kids have to make the shift from the relatively-relaxed days of summer to a much faster gear. The trick to surviving common back-to-school problems is to be ready: Some prep and organization the night before will save your mornings and make everything go much faster.

Here are some tried-and-true tips for the top back-to-school problems families face in the fall.

1. Your child has trouble waking up

Unless you tried to transition your child to an early bedtime and early morning wake-up weeks before school started, your child may have trouble shifting from a summer schedule of later bedtimes and lazy mornings.

Solution: Get your child back into a school schedule by setting up a good bedtime routine and starting it earlier and earlier to make sure she gets enough sleep. (Kids ages 3 to 5 need anywhere between 10 to 13 hours of sleep and kids ages 6 to 12 need approximately 9 to 12 hours.) Be aware of things that can interfere with kids' sleep, such as using electronic devices or eating chocolate too close to bedtime, and make sure her bedroom is cool, comfortable, and dark so that she can relax and get sleep at bedtime.

2. Your child doesn't want to go to school

It's completely understandable why your child may not want to go back to school.

Summer meant freedom, spending more time at home with mom and dad, hanging around with friends, playing outside, and even taking trips. Shifting back into rules and expectations and school work is a big change, and one that many kids need time to adjust into.

Solution: While you can't make your child believe that back-to-school has the same perks as summer, you can make the start of school enticing by reminding him of all the things that back-to-school time offers, such as seeing his friends again, doing fun activities in school, getting to go on school trips, and doing other activities he loves to do in school (fun games in gym class or recess, making arts and crafts, singing or dancing or playing musical instruments, and more).

You can also set up play dates after school so that your child can do homework with his friends and play with them after the work is done.

3. Your child is anxious or sad about going back to school

Back-to-school anxiety is very common among school-age children. After months at home, it's easy to see why kids may be reluctant or bummed about switching back to a school setting, where they may have new classmates and a teacher they don't know and they have to meet expectations. And if your child is starting kindergarten or going into first grade, he is likely to be very anxious about facing something new and unknown.

Solution: Set up play dates with classmates that your child will be seeing in school, especially if your child doesn't know the kids well; this will help her make new friends and get to know them outside the classroom setting. And be sure your child gets plenty of sleep and eats a healthy diet—both of which can help relieve stress and anxiety. To help your child beat the back-to-school blues, keep doing the fun activities you did in the summer (such as going to the park on weekends or eating dinner out on the porch) and plan fun fall activities your child can look forward to, like going apple-picking or hiking.

4. Your child takes too long to get dressed

If your child dawdles in the morning while getting ready for work or spends 20 minutes looking for a piece of clothing he really wants to wear, it's time to make some adjustments to your morning routine.

Solution: Set up a timer and make a game of getting dressed to challenge your child to get ready on time. Have a race to see which family member gets ready for the day and sits down to breakfast first, and have a prize for the earliest dresser of the week. (The prize can be something like getting to pick where/what you eat for dinner on Friday night or what movie your family will watch on the weekend.) And to avoid the "Where is my favorite [pair of socks/skirt/jeans]??!!" drama, have your child select and lay out all pieces of his outfit the night before school.

5. Making breakfast and lunch for school is a scramble

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed in the mornings as you rush to make breakfast and lunch for the whole family before you make a mad dash out the door, a little planning and prep the night before can make a world of difference.

Solution: One of the most important things you can do to save time (and your sanity) at back-to-school time is to prepare lunches and breakfast the night before. Pack a healthy lunch into your child's school lunch box and put it in the fridge. Prepare quick and easy brain-boosting breakfasts the night before—such as a veggie and egg burrito—so that you can heat it up in the morning and even take it with you to go. You can even set the table for breakfast the night before so that you don't have to get cups, bowls and utensils, saving those precious minutes in the morning.

6. Your child hates—hates!—doing homework

This is a common complaint among kids at back-to-school time and year-round. And indeed, research shows that kids in the lower grades are getting too much homework for their age.

Solution: If our child seems stressed about homework and is spending hours in first or second grade doing his assignments, talk with your child's teacher about what you can do to help. Be an advocate for your child: If he's having trouble and working too much every night, chances are the same thing is happening with his classmates. Talk to the other parents and work with your child's teacher to find a solution. To make homework time more fun, work with your child to set up a homework area that's quiet and comfortable, and do your own work or reading near your child to keep him company.

​7. Everyone is stressed

Back-to-school time can be fairly stressful for parents and kids alike. Considering the fact that you and your kids are shifting from the relatively-relaxed pace of summer to the get-up-and-go and do-it-all-again-the-next-day schedule of back-to-school time, it's understandable that there will be more stress.

Solution: Remember that your child is handling a big transition and expectations at this time of the year. One of the most important things parents can do at back-to-school time is make things more fun, be understanding when they make a mistake, and be extra supportive.

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