The idea of your kids going back to school after a long summer vacation may have excited you or filled you with dread. One of the reasons you may have been looking at this time with a little trepidation is that you most likely enjoyed the ease of summer mornings with a much more flexible routine.
If it feels like the start of your school year has been a rollercoaster ride, the best thing you can do is implement a good routine. Maybe it hasn’t been a rollercoaster ride, but you’re concerned that as work load, homework and extra-curricular increase things may derail. The best thing you can do for yourself and your child is plan and get organized. Here are a few tips for getting things on track this new school year.
- Sleep- If your child has become used to a later bedtime and wake time you need to adjust this. Your child needs between 9-12 hours of sleep per night, and if you don’t already know what their optimal amount of sleep is, observe them for a day or two. Are they coping with the amount of sleep they are currently getting? Signs that they are not getting enough sleep include tiredness, grumpiness, clumsiness, inability to focus, and falling asleep easily throughout the day. Once you know how many hours your child thrives on, you can use their school day wake time to work out an optimal bedtime. Gradually move your child’s bed time earlier by about 10-15 minutes per day. For kids needing more sleep, having a few days transition time makes it easier for parents to get into the routine as well! Remember that your child’s wake routine is also important while you are trying to readjust their circadian rhythm. Check our other blog post here for more tips on how to help your child wake up happy and ready to take on the day.
- Meals- Ask yourself if your current school lunch routine is working. Some experts say your child’s food may be the most important thing for this back to school.
Are they eating what you are packing, or coming home ravenous and grumpy? Check to see that they have been drinking enough water. A general guideline for kids up to 8 years old is 1 8oz cup for how many years old they are. Especially with playtime integrated with the school curriculum, more kids than ever are coming home dehydrated. A study by Harvard school of public health says that over 75% of school aged children are not getting enough water during the day! This could manifest in fussiness, tiredness or headaches even though your child is getting enough sleep at night.
Now might also be a good time to teach children how to take responsibility for making most or some of their lunch.
- Put individually packed tiny containers or bags at a level your child can reach. Put pantry and refrigerated items in baskets or bins.
- Let them pick their choice of one or two items you have placed in each bin. (put signs on the front for example: “Pick two” )
- Have one bin for popcorn, pretzels and cracker type snacks.
- One bin for nuts, seeds, trail mixes and nut butters.
- Place fruit and sliced veggies in a bin on a low shelf in the fridge.
- Add proteins like cheese, yogurt, boiled eggs and cold meats in individual portions in another bin.
- Add dips like salsa, yogurt or hummus to another bin. Let them choose one or two from each bin.
If you portion and restock these bins on the weekend or one weeknight, morning lunches should run relatively smoothly. The extra portions also make great grab-and-go snacks for the rest of the family. You may still want to add a main meal item like a roll, sandwich or hot meal which you make. Even preschoolers can cope with this system but have a practice run the weekend.
- Practice- Have a goal in mind of how you want the morning routine to work. Make a schedule and go over it with your children. Younger children will definitely need a practice run. For younger children try a gradual release system. Practice your routine with them for the first week, observe and help for the second week and then just give reminders about when they need to do things. This establishes independence and will set up a good routine for the year. Not only will your children feel more confident, but you will be teaching them important lessons in responsibility as well.
- Organize- Do you have a family calendar that everyone can see? Have designated areas for bags, coats and shoes and other items needed for your daily routine. Now show your child where they are kept and make a checklist of what they will need. Have a designated area for homework and the school supplies you will need. When all family members know where things are placed, everyone can help with the morning routine. If you plan to pack school bags or lay out clothes at night tell your children, show them how to help or do it themselves and then supervise. Be consistent, for yourself and your children. Even when you are all exhausted things will be automatic and won’t seem as tiresome.
- Talk and Adjust- Talk about school and any concerns your children might have. Be involved with what your kids are learning and encourage your kids to share about their day. By letting them put their knowledge to use outside of school, you can plan fun activities and develop your child’s love of learning. Does your child have all the skills they need to cope at school by themselves, can they do things independently, and look after themselves and their belongings? Can they tidy up after themselves? Is there anything they struggled with last year that you could practice? (don’t sweat it if they don’t get this right, learning is about lots of repetition and keeping things fun)
As the school year starts, especially if your child is going to school for the first time, think about how you can support them. Give them some independence within firm boundaries and routines. Help them to make the most of what is offered at school. Remember to praise their achievements and provide a safe place to be heard when things are not going well. Happy learning to you all…