Heading into a new school year can be stressful, overwhelming, hard, and even tear-inducing. Occasionally, our children are affected by it, too (hah!). But there are a few things you can do to help everyone in your household acclimate and adjust to the new routine. The first, and most important step? Have a routine.
During summer break, it's easy to fall out of routines. If you’re like me, the kids stay up later, sleep in longer, eat weird things at funny hours, and get a little more screen time than they do during the school year. (On a side note, during the school year, screen time only happens on non-school nights in my house, and it’s a glorious thing you should try). Bathtimes, story times, and even brushing our teeth seem to happen whenever we darn well please. And this break of routine can be such a welcome respite from the daily monotony that seems to set in during the school year. It’s fun and well-deserved all around, but going back to school can be hard.
The best thing you can do is introduce parts of your routine in the two weeks before school starts back up again. If bedtime is 7:30, but they’ve been hanging in each night until 9:30, start setting a boundary and moving it up a few minutes each night. That way, when it’s time to go back to a 7:30 bedtime, it’s not a huge shock to their little systems. The same works if they have to wake-up earlier during the school year. Start waking up 15 minutes earlier each day by setting an alarm. It will make the transition much easier.
During summertime, I’m not going to lie, I tend to count playing in the hose as a shower a lot of the time. In your house, if showers happen every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the school year, first of all, please come to my house and make this magic happen. Then, start doing it in your own house the week before school starts.
Another great habit to start that will make your life easier is to begin “packing” lunches for the week on Sunday nights. Portion out fruits/veggies/snacks/whatever the only thing your child is eating these days (my daughter is currently living on pistachios and fruit ice pops #nojudgement) on Sunday nights and store them in the fridge. Each night, simply take the next day’s portions and throw them into the lunch box for the next morning. (Store the lunchbox in the fridge if it’s perishable stuff). The same goes for breakfasts- prep as much as you can the night before, and this will help cut down on the morning chaos.
Set out clothes for the week (if you’re an overachiever)- or even just the night before (which is my goal). Wake your child up by laying in bed next to them for two minutes instead of yelling down the hall (it does a world of good for mental health all around). Get in touch with their school, and go to any “meet the teacher” events to begin forming a good relationship with the school immediately. Get a homework routine established for each night. Try creating a routine chart for your children, and even consider rewards for independent behaviors. For younger children, sticker charts can work really well here- if they do xyz each day they get a sticker. Every 10 stickers equals something they’ll work for (a sleep-over, a new board game, extra play time, etc.).
In all of this, please remember that routines are great, but it’s also important to be flexible. Some nights/mornings just aren’t going to happen the way we envision them going. And as my best friend would say, “...they aren’t going to happen, and that’s ok”. I’m sure we’ll all still get our “Parent of the Year” nominations…