Back-to-School Checklist: 5 Tips for Military Families

Written by TeLeah Thurston


Family life in the military has some similarities to the civilian community when it comes to getting prepared for the new school year. However, with the constant relocating, the effects of military life can bring on additional uncertainties. As a mom of a four, five, and six-year-old getting ready to start school in a new state, my back-to-school checklist keeps my family prepared and hopefully yours, too!


1. Get a Schedule Started

There will be so much commotion on the first day of classes, that the last thing you want is to be late on the first day. Summer vacation was full of long days, late nights, and even later mornings. You’ll want to prepare your family for those early mornings again. I like to do this about a week or so before school starts by sending my children to bed a little earlier so they gradually adjust to getting up earlier.

We also adjust our schedule to change meal and snack times to fit our school schedule. You may need to determine if your child needs to start eliminating naps depending on the grade they are going into. Once you find the best schedule that fits your family, stick to it.


2. Complete Your School Shopping Early

The summer is a good time to take inventory of your kid’s closets and begin assessing what’s getting too small or what they might need. We like to keep an ongoing list on our phone of our children’s current sizes; and when we’re out doing weekly grocery shopping, I may take a detour to the clothing department clearance aisle to find clothes in the next size up.

As for school supplies, you can typically find your school’s supply list online or by contacting the school office during their summer office hours. Rarely does the school supply list change drastically from year to year, but if you wait until the week before school starts, you may find yourself on a wild school supply chase!


3. Get To Know Your Child’s Teacher

One of the most important relationships to have is the one with your child’s educator. They will be spending the most time with your children throughout the school year and you’ll want to rely on them as much as they’ll need to rely on you. Most schools host an open house or a meet and greet before the first day of classes. It’s imperative to be a part of that as you’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions and to share important information about your child with the teacher. If you happen to miss this opportunity due to work or moving, be sure to reach out to the teacher as soon as possible via phone or email and begin building a rapport.


4. Use Social Media as a Lifeline

My favorite aspect of social media, Facebook groups specifically, is that I’m able to begin a community before I get where I’m going. Whether it’s the school page or a private community group, I’m able to locate other military parents whose children attend the same school as my children. In this case, I’m able to gain additional insight on teachers as well as resources I may have otherwise not come across.

One thing I do prior to the first day of classes is set up a playdate (or mixer) with other military parents whose children will be in the same class as my children, so they have a familiar face on the first day of school. I’ve found this to be extremely helpful with my young children but I’ve heard parents of teens use this same approach.


5. Military Parents, Talk With Your Children

My final tip on my back-to-school checklist is to talk with your children (teens too) about the upcoming school year — and do it often. The effects of military life hit children just as hard as parents, and I can guarantee you they certainly have their fears and questions about the upcoming school year. The more you communicate with your children, listening to their thoughts and removing any worries through gained information, the better. The more informed children are, the better prepared they can be for the school year.

The Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) helps support military kids who experience frequent moves and new schools through programs like Operation Hero and Operation Little Learners. Your support helps keep these programs going. Find a location near you or your next duty station here.


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