Kids across the country are returning to school for a new year of fresh pencils, getting-to-know-you games, math class, art projects and much more. But jumping from the lazy days of summer into the structured routine of the school year can be jarring for the entire family, so it can be helpful to ease into the new schedule slowly to help everyone start the school year on the right foot. Here are a few tips to consider during this transition:
Gradually adjust bedtime and wake time. Instead of trying to suddenly implement a bedtime and an alarm on the first day of school, inch your schedule back a few minutes at a time in the weeks leading up to the new school year. For example, if your goal is to have the kids in bed by 8 PM and awake by 6:30 AM, but they currently go to bed at 9 PM and wake up around 8 AM, start by moving bedtime up to 8:45 PM for a few nights, then 8:30 PM, and so on until you reach the goal time. Similarly, wake the kids up a few minutes earlier each day so they will be awake and alert when the alarm goes off on the first day of school.
Start, or restart, meal planning. This is one of those things that often goes by the wayside during the relaxed summer months of barbecues, picnics and vacations, but it can make a world of difference during the school year. Begin by creating a list of go-to meals that you know you can prepare in advance or easily tackle on a busy weeknight. Then when the new school year begins, you can mix and match each week to avoid mealtime stress and enjoy catching up with everyone over a more relaxed dinner.
Create a homework nook. Let’s be honest: Most kids’ rooms are not super conducive to focusing on schoolwork. Toys, video games, and much more can be distracting and extend the process of finishing up assignments each evening. Set up a place for kids to sit and do homework each evening where they can truly study and focus on their work. Helping them feel successful will make the routine much smoother for everyone! Whether this is a spot at the dining room table where they can ask you questions during dinner prep or a quiet area in another room, work with your kids to find what is best for them.
Get a calendar that everyone can see. And be sure to schedule in blocks of time for family time and unstructured play activities. Overscheduling kids with too many planned lessons and sports leaves little room to recharge, create, bond with others, and just “be” without performing.
Give everyone a bin near the front door. This “landing strip” can eliminate hunting for backpacks, keys, and important papers during the morning rush.
Practice the morning and evening prep routines. By taking the time in the evenings to lay out clothing, pack lunches and organize backpacks, you can set up a much less stressful morning and ensure everyone catches the bus on time. Work with your kids to figure out what they can take responsibility for in these routines. Can they lay out their own clothes? Pack their own lunches? Start helping them take a bigger role, as well as take some things off your own plate!
Ease any anxiety. It’s totally normal for kids (and parents!) to experience some hesitations or anxiety ahead of a new school year. Make sure to take time to talk with the kids about anything that may be worrying them to help make the transition a smooth one.
With exciting events, new friends, and the return to a more typical schedule, back-to-school season can be both busy and fun for the whole family. By taking steps to ease the transition, it can get things started on a less stressful note and set the stage for a great year ahead.