“I don’t want to go to school. I want to stay with mom,” said the 5-year-old. From her older brother: “It’s hard and boring. And the lunch is terrible.” Their horrified mom asked that their names not be printed for fear future teachers might hold their candid comments against them.
But, let’s be honest, lots of kids are feeling the back-to-school blues just about now. Here are some suggestions from families and experts about how to make the most of the rest of the vacation and how to ease into the new academic year:
FOR ALL AGES
• Milk what’s left. Hang onto these last precious days. “The last two weeks, my dad takes off from work,” says Grace Hickey, who attended Bay Shore High School. “We’ll just be hanging together, tubing, boating, going to the beach, relaxing, and enjoying the rest of summer.”
• Channel kindergarten. Remind kids of the feeling they had that first year, when school was a novelty.
FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
• Make prep fun. “Develop some excitement,” advises Wendi Fischer, a former elementary school psychologist in the Elwood district. “I loved school-supply shopping. I still love to do that.”
• Develop traditions. “In our house, we monogram our backpacks and we pick funky ice packs,” says Gina Russo of Bay Shore, mom of two. Her son, for instance, played football and soccer this summer, so they decorated his pack in sports theme so he can relive those experiences.
• Emphasize the positive. “Usually school-age kids do have activities they miss from school,” says Don Sinkfield, a therapist in private practice in Valley Stream. “My daughter … looks forward to her after-school program, and she likes art class.”
• Do a dry run. Once you know who your child’s teacher will be, take her to the school and show her the classroom, advises Laurie Zelinger, a school psychologist in the Oceanside district. Tell her which friends will be in her class, and remind her of the neighborhood kids on her bus. Plan playdates before school starts to reacquaint her with school friends.
FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL
• Extend summer. Find out what it is about summer they will miss the most. Is it being outside? Seeing their camp friends? Swimming? Try to perpetuate some of these things going into the school year. “Once school starts, we sometimes get a little too rigid. Lighten things up,” suggests Deborah Serani, a Smithtown psychologist and author of “Depression and Your Child.” Let them do their homework outside, for instance. See if their camp friends can visit on the weekend; sign them up for indoor swimming lessons.
• Hype fall. “I also love the fall because there’s still so much that can be done,” Serani says. There’s carnivals, apple picking, Halloween and more.
• Talk tech. Kids may have access to better technology at school than home, always a lure for tweens. “A lot of middle schools nowadays give kids tablets,” says Fred Zelinger, a retired Long Beach school psychologist.
• Readjust schedules Middle school often starts earlier in the morning than elementary school. Get kids to bed earlier and up earlier now, so it’s not a shock the first day of school, suggests Laurie Zelinger. Implement their new lunch schedule as well. Some middle school and high school students have lunch period at 10:30.
FOR HIGH SCHOOL
• Get work done. Finish up that summer reading, stat. That way the final weeks of summer will be as stress-free as possible.
• Think sports Sports tryouts for high school students are usually the last week in August. Trying out for a sport reintroduces older kids to the schoolyard, classmates and life ruled by the dreaded alarm clock.