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Talk to Your Kids About Going Back to School

10 Critical Questions to Ask Your Child before School Starts

Parents have a lot to do to get their kids ready for school. During the last couple of weeks of summer the malls across the country are filled with parents and children buying new clothes, picking out new shoes, finding just the right backpack, getting haircuts and stocking up on school supplies. It’s a very busy and stressful time for parents and children alike. However, the source of stress for parents and children is very different – which is why getting ready for back-to-school should be about much more than new shoes and notebooks.

As the days count down towards the first day of school, parents start to relax. Once all the required purchases have been made, parents look forward to the end of summer and the return of routine. Children, however, may feel very differently. Depending on their age, grade, familiarity with the school and experience in the prior year, kids may feel a combination of conflicting feelings that can include excitement, nervousness, anxiety or even absolute dread. As the first day of school grows closer, the emotions a child is feeling will intensify.

Spend some time before the start of school finding out how your children really feel about going back to school this year. You may be very surprised by what your children say. Once you know what their honest feelings are, you will be able to help support them better as the day grows closer. You can talk about it all at once or you can ask a few questions over several days before school starts.

Start the conversation by saying something like, “Hey, school is starting soon…” and then ask a few simple questions. Start by talking about ‘kids’ in general and then work your way up to asking questions that are specific to your child. In all cases, your child will answer from his or her own perspective. Here are some great questions to get the conversation started.

1. What do kids look forward to most about going back to school?

2. What do kids look forward to least about going back to school?

3. What is the best thing that could happen on the first day of school?

4. What is the worst thing that could happen on the first day of school?

5. What do you think you will like the most about school this year?

6. What worries you the most about going into grade x?

7. Do you think other kids feel this way, too?

8. What would have to happen to make this the best year ever?

9. What can you do to help make that happen?

10. What can I/we do to help make that happen?

These are great questions to ask over dinner or during a quiet time with your children. Listen carefully to what your kids say – their answers will give you good insights into their sincere feelings and worries. Work with your children to address any concerns before school starts. After school starts, ask follow-up questions to see how any concerns they had line up with the reality of the new grade.

Remember – getting your child ready for school should be about more than shoes and supplies. In fact, getting your child emotionally ready may be the most important task of all.

Catherine Wakelin is a professional facilitator, speaker and mother of 12-year old twins. Learn more about her new book Talk about Anything with Your Kids- An Easy Guide to Great Conversations and sign-up for free Parenting Tips at

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