This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on August 22, 2018 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine
Question: The transition from summer to back-to-school is always a difficult one in our household. I do a terrible job enforcing a schedule in the summer. (I am a teacher so I am home with the kids for most of the summer.) Other than shifting to regular school-year bedtimes and schedules closer to school starting, what are other ways in which I can help make the transition easier?
Enforcing a schedule in the summer is not easy and not expected; even a teacher can get away with that! The lack of routine and not having to be at school at a certain time makes summer special and fun. But as summer wears on, many of us (students and parents) secretly yearn for the normalcy and routine that back-to-school brings.
Here are some ideas which others have used:
–Begin talking about going back to school early and often.
–Get organized. Get out old clothes and see what fits. Plan a shopping trip for a few new items. This will get them started thinking about school. For me this was a special event that included lunch out with mom (a big deal) and new school shoes.
–New school supplies are definitely a reminder. A clean, blank notebook holds a lot of promise.
–Invite some school friends over who they don’t usually see during the summer. It’s an icebreaker of sorts.
–Talk to the kids about what might make it easier to get back into routine. Including them helps to foster the desired change.
–Let them practice setting and getting up using an alarm clock; it’s a grown up thing to do.
–Slowly start rolling back bedtimes and wake times, and start “predicting” by saying things like, “This time next week you’ll be riding the bus/meeting your new teacher”.
–Once it is open again, make a trip to the school to see the classroom or visit the playground. This allows the kids to get that school feeling again and lessens anxiety.
–Try developing a new tradition of the “back to school dinner” with tacos or pizza, where the talk is all about the new school year. Give it a good build up by talking about it days ahead. Ask questions such as: Who are they looking forward to seeing? What do they want to get better at doing? Can they set a goal?
–Pick out a first-day-of-school outfit a few days before school starts.
–Make a chart for the things that need to get done or behaviors that are desired as the school year starts, which could earn an ice cream outing if progress is made. The kids should help decide what goes on the chart. The chart might also include things like “Snuggle with Mommy” if awake by 7:00. The chart can reflect each child’s morning needs but sets it on a timeframe to allow for getting ready.
–Remember that TV and other screens can be a huge distraction from the task to get ready in the morning. Even if it is a network morning show which you like, it will distract everyone. Then it leads to yelling about getting ready and finding things. Talk ahead of time about how you will handle requested screen time on school mornings. Lively music might be a better choice.
–Lastly, start to plan what you need to do to take care of yourself this school year. Do you need to get up before the kids, to have that much needed alone/coffee time? What will help you be your best-self for facing the day? What are things that were difficult during the last school year for which it might be best to do some advance planning? Getting school days started as stress-free as possible is good for you and for them.
Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”