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Essential Back-to-School Behavior Tips from a Certified Behavior Therapist

New York feels different when the summer comes to a close and September hits.

And it's not just that the commercials start marketing all the back to school sales :) Vacations come to a close and rules start going back into place. Structure and routines become more important and time feels more sparse.

Along with that, stores feel more crowded with everyone buying new lunch bags and finding the perfect first-day-of-school outfits. Around 8am and 3pm the streets get more crowded with the bustle of school drop off and pick up.

Switching into school mode is not something that happens easily. For a smooth transition into the school year, you need to put some thought and effort into it. With a touch of planning you can have your family off to the best school year yet!

Tips for an Easy Breazy Transition to School

  • Create a calendar. Writing down what is happening when will not only keep you organized but it will also help your small being organized. Depending on your family, you might want to make a weekly calendar or a monthly calendar. Mark down school days, non-school days and weekends. September has many holidays and school phase ins, a calendar will keep all the days clear. This clear visual representation of time will create clear expectations for everyone.
  • If you small beings are not reading yet, use pictures. You can create it as a family project and put it where everyone in your family can see. An added bonus of creating a calendar is the independence for your children to know their own schedule, so you may want to consider maintaining it throughout the school year.
  • Talk to your kids about the changes that come with the school year.  Don’t let it just sneak up and surprise everyone. Don’t change the rules of the house without talking with your small beings about them.
  • Use language that is age appropriate and concise. They do not need every detail, just a general understanding. Have conversations about what is expected behavior now that school is starting and summer is coming to a close. Talking about what is to come and what behavior is appropriate for each environment allows for clear expectations.
  • Start your school routine before school actually starts.  Don't have the night before school be the first night that your small beings actually goes to bed at bedtime.

 For a few days before school starts, get your family in a routine similar to school. That might look like, waking up early, getting all ready and out of the house at the same time you would need to for school, then spending a big chunk of the day out of the house (at playgrounds, on playdates, running errands) and then come home for afternoon relaxation, dinner and then a solid bedtime routine.

The more regulated you can make the routine before school starts, the easier the transition to school will be.

One Tip for You:

Recognize that school days result in different behaviors from your kids. All summer, whether they were in camp or just spending days outside, there was more physical activity. Your children were physically exhausted at the end of the day. Being in school is generally more mentally tiring. So frustration tolerance may shift as energy levels change. Set your expectations for your small beings behavior so that you can be patient as the behavior shifts.

Dr. Marcie is a behavioral therapist based in Brooklyn. She has worked with thousands of families over 15 years and has condensed her observations into her practice and programs. For a free opportunity to bring your behavior questions to Dr. Marcie visit


Behavior Therapist

Dr. Marcie has realistic ideas for the real-life behaviors that parents and professionals face. For over 15 years, Dr. Marcie has created tantrum-free zones for thousands of families, many being the most challenging cases, and has effective and tested strategies for today's parents and educators to regain control of their children, their lives and their classrooms. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctorate, and earned her Doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University and her New York State Certification as a Special Education Teacher and Administrator. Dr. Marcie conducts professional development and parenting trainings privately, at universities, at day care centers, as well as pre-school, elementary and secondary schools around the country, and has a column in NY Parenting.