August is already here and the sun is beginning to set on this year’s lazy days of summer. Teachers are setting up their classrooms while parents are juggling neverending lists of back-to-school materials to buy and paperwork to read to prepare their kids for the new school year ahead. After months of free and flexible schedules, how can we help children ease back into normal routines and look forward to the school season ahead?
Change can be stressful for both parents and children, especially with the additional safety precautions these days and staying hyper-vigilant about our kids’ health and safety. Here are four tips that focus on communication and working together to get you both back into a school routine as a team.
- Discuss What Their New Routine Will Look Like
Whether they know it or not, most children crave structure. Knowing what’s happening next provides a sense of safety and healthy control. Take the time to have an open conversation about what their new schedule will look like to mitigate any surprises, confusion, or anxiety meeting new teachers, and classmates and acclimating to a new schedule. This is especially important if you have children that will be going to school for the first time or are returning to the classroom after learning from home during the pandemic.
This discussion can be a great dinnertime topic where you can walk your child through an overview of what their new routine will look like, including new bedtime and wake-up times, how meal times will differ, and when they will get dropped off and picked up from school. Leave room for them to ask questions and voice any concerns they may have.
- Practice Back To School Routines Together
After you’ve given your child a moment to envision the school year ahead of them, let them know that they are not alone by practicing it together. Just like the first day at work can be anxiety-provoking, heading back to school may feel the same way for your child. Role-play their first conversation with a teacher (especially asking for help or clarity), meet new kids or greet old ones, and move from classroom to classroom so they feel more comfortable when they arrive on the first day.
- Gradually Adjust Bedtime
Summertime lends itself to later bedtimes, but when fall comes around, you might be wishing that you never changed it in the first place. Sleep is one of the most vital factors when it comes to a child’s learning and is critical to their overall health, ability to manage stress, and having enough energy to engage in a full school day. Since kids may be resistant to the change, it’s smart to start adjusting their bedtime gradually instead of changing it all at once.
After you’ve decided on the time that your child will need to go to bed during the school season, start tapering them into their new bedtime during the last few weeks of summer. Start by waking them up and putting them down 15 minutes earlier. Continue these incremental adjustments every few days so that the change doesn’t feel abrupt (and will be met with less resistance) so they’re ready to go on their first day.
- Include Them In Back To School Prep
Despite the early alarm clocks and structured schedules, one of the best ways to increase a child’s excitement for the back-to-school season is to include them in the preparation.
As a parent, you are likely shopping for school supplies, clothes, and even food for packed lunches. While it may feel easier to handle all of this on your own, letting your kids make some decisions about a new backpack or a few outfits allows them to feel seen and express their individuality. Teaching them about budgets will also strengthen their practical math and problem-solving skills and show them that they will indeed apply what they learn in school to real-life situations.
Back-to-school season can be an exciting—and daunting—time for families. When you approach the overwhelm one day at a time and involve your child in the process, you can minimize the stress that comes with it.
While these tips are a great starting point, remember that everyone is different. The routine you create may differ from your friends and neighbors. The key is not to compare yours to others but to focus on what works best for your family to set your child up for an exciting and successful school year!