Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to get your daughter up for school when she’s usually awake at this time during the summer months? Why is she so tired? She isn’t doing nearly as much in school as she did in the summer. Why is your son so grumpy when he seemed really excited about starting back to school? Why are the mornings so hectic? You think, “I’m organized, and we get to other places on time. Why is it so difficult to transition to the back-to-school routine?”
The back-to-school transition … Many things have been written, and many parents and children successfully navigate it each year. What helps ease this transition? What really matters? Here are the most helpful hints that I have found from my personal experience and from working with many parents through the years.
1. Although most parents tend to ease up on routines in the summer, we know that children need predictable patterns of sleep, activity, and nutrition to thrive. Before school starts:
a. Establish a bedtime routine that allows your child to get plenty of rest.
b. Set morning wake-up alarms so that your child’s body adjusts to the new schedule.
c. Practice the morning routine before it is actually time to go to school.
d. Focus on your child’s nutrition.
2. Plan, plan, plan! This is truly the key factor to successful morning routines. I can honestly say this is probably the best investment of your time that you can make:
a. Gather all assignments, notes, and other school items. Put everything in children’s backpacks and put the backpacks in a specific spot every night before bed.
b. Lay out each child’s clothes or let the child choose what she will wear the next day. All decisions about clothes, shoes, socks, hair accessories, and such need to be made the evening before.
c. Plan breakfast and, if applicable, what will be packed for lunch. Do as much as you can before going to bed. Do this every night so that it becomes routine.
d. Set time markers for children and be as specific as you want. For example, be at the breakfast table at 7:00 a.m., be dressed and meet at the couch at 7:30 a.m., have shoes and backpacks on and be standing at the door at 7:40 a.m., and so on. Give children a way to see their progress and to know that they are on track. You can even set timers for the little ones.
e. What about the child who has a hard time getting out of bed in the morning? Try this: For each time he is called and does not get up, move his bedtime earlier by 10 minutes that evening. Be consistent, not punitive. Say to him: “I can see that you were very tired this morning, and you needed extra rest. We’ll adjust your bedtime to give you the rest you need until you can get up when you are called.” Then do it. It empowers your child when you place the responsibility for getting up on him.
3. Make every effort to clear your schedule the first couple of weeks of school so that you can listen to your children after school. They need to process the details of the day and talking it out with you will be a tremendous relief for them.
4. Make yourself familiar with your children’s environment. Meet the people in their world. Go look at the classroom. Send a note to the teacher. Letting your children know that you are aware of their world brings a certain comfort to them.
5. Children need calm and reassuring parents … so take good care of you. Sometimes a child has a very difficult time adjusting, and a calm parent can eventually lead him to see that everything is going to be okay. You may sometimes need to get involved and settle an issue at school. But concerns are always best resolved when parents are calm, professional, and keep their focus on simply working toward a successful solution for their child.
Back to School … It will not be long before everyone is in the routine, and you will not regret investing in establishing great morning and evening routines. Happy 2012-2013 school year! Make it a great!
Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.