Survive and Thrive in Hawaiʻi’s Back-to-School Groove

Keiki and their adults can ease into the new school year with these 5 helpful tips.

The start of the school year marks the end of smooth commutes on the H-1 and the beginning of early mornings and a new routine. Whether your kids are in high school or picking up a pencil for the first time, the transition from summer to school can bring up different feelings of worry and excitement for both parents and keiki.

Kids might associate going back to school with shopping trips to pick out new school supplies. Meanwhile, parents are just envisioning the extra-long receipt. Children might also be nervous about making new friends and having a different teacher, while parents are trying to coordinate busy afters-chool schedules around their jobs.

In Hawai‘i, we often have both parents who work. Therefore, time for the whole family to plan for the new school year may fall by the wayside. Local students will be filing into the classroom soon, with some starting as early as Aug. 5.

To ease those first-day jitters, we recommend five strategies to successfully launch into the new school year.

  1. Shop smart. School year prep should start right after the last school year ends. Go through your child’s supplies to find unused or gently used items you can repurpose for the next school year. Watch out for deals at CVS Longs or Fisher stores, or team up with other parents to buy in bulk. Shop with cash to keep your budget on track. Involve children to pick their supplies, but only to the extent that it won’t break the bank. It may be better to leave particularly choosy little ones at home to help with labeling instead.

  2. Acknowledge feelings. Talk to your child about first day jitters. Ask questions on what they are most excited about and discuss any concerns they may have. Keep those questions going during the year, and if your child is talking negatively about school, make sure to explore feelings further. Try to problem solve by asking, situational questions like, “if that happens, what can you do?”

  3. Schedule downtime. Back to school often means back to homework and extracurriculars. Sometimes, neighborhood district parks offer low cost activities that help keiki burn off extra energy or develop new skills. Some kids may thrive going from hula, to soccer, to ʻukulele lessons, but other children may need more downtime and time to relax. Knowing your children and making sure they get enough rest is key.

  4. Start your back-to-school routine early. Getting the family back on school schedule a week before school actually starts will help everyone to adjust physically and mentally. Going to sleep early and waking up early can help everyone get on track so the kids aren’t tired or falling asleep during class.

  5. Get the route down. If your kids will be going to a new school, help to make their first day go smoothly by practicing the route to school or by taking a tour of the campus. Make sure to discuss bus and walking safety, too.


Cheryl Johnson is the program director for community teen programs at Parents And Children Together, a Hawaiʻi nonprofit providing social services and early childhood education to nurture the relationships that matter most for children and families. For more information, visit
parentsandchildrentogether.org.