As summer vacation—a time for family trips, relaxation and soaking up the sun—wanes, it’s that time of year again: back to school. Changing up your family’s schedule to master the early morning rush, homework woes and bedtime battles can be daunting. And, knowing how to execute the steps of creating a routine that will work for your family may seem impossible.
But, taking charge of the back to school routine doesn’t have to feel like a battle. In fact, with a bit of prep, organization and focus, you’re bound to experience a smooth transition into the fall months.
Kids follow their example, so it’s up to parents to set, reevaluate if necessary and stick to the back to school routine. Kim Wolinski, (“Dr. DeClutter”), an author, speaker, priority coach and professional organizer based in Longmont, says for a successful transition like back to school, it’s essential that parents set expectations, timelines and most importantly, follow through.
“Routines are paramount for all of us, but especially for children. You have to set the schedule, that becomes ‘routine,’ for time to get up in the morning, breakfast time, off to school, after school activities, homework, dinner preparation and cleanup, chores and bedtime to make sure that they get all of their ‘to dos’ done and get the sleep they need to function effectively throughout their busy, learning days,” she says.
Some big mistakes parents make when helping their children transition from summer break to the school year grind is by not providing structure to each day, being inconsistent, insufficiently preparing, and not encouraging independence in the wake-up/bedtime routine, Wolinski says.
When setting the back to school structure for your child, simply talk with them first. Talk through what the week will be like, what to expect or the upcoming day’s schedule and explain to them what events will take place. “If a child is told ‘the plan’ for the next day each evening, to ready their mind for the next day, it helps them get ready internally, so, no major surprises occur,” she says.
Talking it through can help with consistency, as it sets the stage for what’s to come. Routine and consistency go hand in hand, and getting your child in the routine of talking about daily expectations will encourage their level of interest and active participation.
Beth Firestein, a psychologist based in Loveland, agrees that talking with children make a significant impact on their back to school attitude. “For young students, it is helpful to talk in positive and excited ways about the upcoming school year beginning about one month prior to the start of school,” she says. “Don’t go overboard, but present the return to school as something the kids can look forward to.”
Consistency can also encourage independence. Teaching children to ready their school supplies the night before, select their school outfit if necessary, pack their lunch, etc., will also contribute to the easy flow of the transition. Once a child knows what is necessary to ready for the coming day, they can execute these tasks on their own.
Wolinski encourages parents to use these transition tips, too:
- Have frequent family meetings to discuss weekly schedules, homework rules and updates, expectations and chores, etc.
- Purchase a family calendar or planner so there can be a visual reference, too.
- Create time charts: homework, (list of assignemtns with reward sections), after-school chart (expectations for activities or how time should be spent after school) and chore chart.
- Schedule a get-acquainted meeting with your child’s teacher.
- Visit the school. Ask to see the classroom and help your child find the way to restrooms, the lunchroom or cafeteria, gym, playground, etc.
- Talk positively about their school and their upcoming school experience. Share your positive learning experiences and let your child know that you value education.
MORNING AND NIGHT WOES
Getting out of bed in the morning isn’t always easy. Sleeping always feels like the more comfortable option than dragging our bodies through the early morning routine. And, children generally feel no different.
“When kids have trouble getting out of bed on their own in the morning, are grouchy, and/or have irritable or moody behavior during the day, it’s very likely that they need more sleep,” Wolinski says. “Ideally, children should consistently go to bed at the same time every night and rise the same time every morning.”
Helping your children wind down can be a challenge. But, using the tactics of consistency and preparation can help you and your children achieve the necessary calm to drift into a peaceful sleep. Sticking to a consistent bedtime and can be tough to manage in the throws of daily life. But, it is possible. Adjusting a child’s internal clock from summer break to early morning routine can be done abruptly, but it won’t be pretty or in anyone’s best interest.
“Make the transition back to early to bed and early to rise a gradual process,” Wolinski says.
To ease children to the school year sleep schedule, Wolinski recommends:
- Move bedtime up by 15 to 30 minutes one week before school starts.
- Consistently wake up earlier during the week before school starts.
- Motivate children to get out of bed by creating fun reasons for them to get going.
- Help children to have homework complete at least an hour before bed.
- Prepare supplies for upcoming day.
- Have a consistent bedtime that everyone knows.
- Warn children five to ten minutes before they need to get ready for bed so they can wrap up what they’re doing.
- Have quiet activities before bed. (Limit television, video games and computer time).
- Avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks and foods in the late afternoon and evening.
- No cell phones at bedtime. Keep them out of the child’s room all together.
- Teach your children relaxation techniques to help them relax and fall asleep.
For more tips and information about how to declutter your life, routine or transition, please visit: drdeclutter.com
By Dominique Del Grosso