How to Help Those New Year Jitters with Back-to-School Traditions



This past June we finished PreK through a local elementary. Though it was my daughter who got the certificate, I say “we,” because y’all know it takes a village with those take-home folders, class parties, wake-up times … the list goes on.

This summer in between pool days and summer camps, we’re trying to talk up Kindergarten and get her excited. Since we’re not PCSing this summer, we’re hoping to have the energy to start some of these “New School Year” traditions.

5 Back-to-School Traditions

Back-to-School Party

When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I had the idea to throw a “Back to School” party. It was very much a child-directed and planned party. I made the invitations by hand and delivered them to my friends. I asked my mom to make homemade bread and got vegetables and fruits together. When my friends arrived, we played volleyball in the backyard until we were tired and then came inside for the main event. School Supply Bingo! On the invitation, I asked each friend to bring a small school supply like markers, glue sticks, folders to swap for a game.

I wish I still had one of the hand-drawn, uneven lined Bingo cards I made. I scrawled “Teacher,” “Social Studies,” “Recess,” “Report Card” and another 20 school-related words I could think of. It was a party that was low-effort for my parents and high yield fun for me and my friends.

Participate in a School Supply Drive

Many installations and communities sponsor school supply drives to help families in need. If your family is in a position to donate, try to involve your kids in picking out supplies that will go toward the drive. At Operation Homefront,  you can find a distribution site or ways to support the organization in its national effort to get free supplies and backpacks to military kids and families. Some states host tax free weekends before school starts to give parents a break on school supplies. If your state does this, it’s a great time to pick up some for your family and some to donate.

Back-to-School Feast

Some families like to do a special dinner and call it a back-to-school feast. Pinterest has no shortage of ideas for food, themes or decor. Kids can help plan the menu, and you determine the degree of fanciness.

Are you stressed because you just PCS’d, household goods haven’t arrived yet and you have no energy to make a fancy feast? A pizza party and ice cream might just be your thing this year. It seems like the goal of the feast/dinner party is to gather as a family before the crazy train of the school year begins. Alternatively, if a whole night of feasting isn’t on the menu, grabbing shakes at your favorite burger joint after Meet-the-Teacher night can be a good chance to shake off the new school year jitters.

Family Sleepover

If a feast is more than you can handle, try a lower key idea, like a back to school sleepover the weekend before. My cousin does a sleepover with her kids the Friday night before school starts every year.

“My kids love it and look forward to it every year,” she told me.

The kids pick out their favorite candy and pick a movie. They have unlimited popcorn. The family brings sleeping bags to the living room floor and the sleepover starts with the youngest’s movie pick, since he or she will usually fall asleep first. Then they go down the line and keep watching as long as people are awake. Everyone sleeps in their sleeping bags for an indoor party to sugar up and kick off the school year! My cousin admitted she and her husband usually end up in their room at some point, but hey, they make a good faith effort to sleep on the floor! And that’s what counts!

Back-to-School Family Goals

Setting goals when school begins has always been better for me than setting them in January. The school year seemed like a more reasonable length of time than the entire calendar year. Consider what your family would like to accomplish or improve this school year.

Your goal can be simple: “Be on time” (which is not really simple) or a broader focus like “Reach Out,” if you want to focus on helping others. Maybe your family sets a goal to visit more parks or outdoor spaces in your new duty station. Whatever you decide, make it fit your family and find a way to display it somewhere everyone can see in your home. This fall, my daughter will attend a dual language program, so we’ve been thinking of goals to encourage her since this will be something completely new. 

How do you ring in the new school year?