Getting Kids (Back) Into School Year Routines

Whether your kids are going to school for the first time or going back after having the summer off, the change can be stressful. For some, there is no real routine during vacation, so it means changing from being “footloose and fancy free” to needing structure in how they spend their days. For others, the routine may be different during vacation than while in school and yet it’s not as much of a transition. In either case, the start of school means some change.

It may be a good idea to begin at least part of the routine before school starts. Have them get up every day at the same time, even if it’s later than during the school year. Have meals and snacks at around the same time as during school. Set aside some time for reading, or some other type of “educational” relaxation, to get back into the rhythm of learning versus play. If possible, try to get your children used to leaving the house in the morning. This can be a challenge if both parents work outside the home, but it can pay dividends when school actually starts and the kids don’t have to race because they don’t know where everything is, and it will help if they have gotten used to hanging out a good part of the day in their pajamas. This also might be good practice for some stay-at-home parents.

What’s the Routine?

The daily routine will vary based on many factors. These can include, but in no way are limited, to:

  • How many children are there?
  • Who takes the bus and who needs a ride?
  • Can both parents help with the transportation?
  • Are there pets to be taken care of before everyone leaves?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • Who needs a lunch packed or money for hot lunch?

The most important part of the routine is, at least for most families, the morning. However, many families, especially those that have members who are not “morning people,” also consider a pre-bedtime routine important, and use it to take care of as many of the morning tasks as possible. An after-school routine can also be helpful, especially if it includes reminders to empty any uneaten food from lunch boxes and backpacks, as well as getting any permission slips, notes, etc. signed so that they don’t become a surprise part of the morning rush.

Some families assign timeframes to certain tasks, especially for longer tasks (like some homework assignments). When doing this, a good rule of thumb is to break tasks into 15-minute sections. Most of us, adults and kids alike, can do almost anything for 15 minutes. If children have seriously applied themselves to a project for 15 minutes, they can take a short break. On the other hand, they may decide to keep going, and get the project done that much sooner.

Size May Not Matter, but Age Does

As the years go on, children can take on more responsibility. Older kids can also mentor their younger siblings as well as take on additional household tasks. This can be a positive experience, but it can also cause tension and problems. It’s important to do everything possible to keep the lines of communication open if problems should occur. Often, even if older children resent their parents, they may feel protective or supportive of their younger brothers and sisters. Try to help them understand that, by sharing the load, they’re not just helping you, they’re helping their siblings.

Write It Down, but Don’t Carve It in Stone

An important component to the success of any routine is to write it down. Keep in mind though that, just as in a work or employment setting, circumstances can and do change. Talk with your kids and make sure the written routine really is doing the job. If not, work with them to try and develop a routine that does better. They’ll be more committed to the routine if they help develop it. And remember, you’re not just helping them (and you) get through the day, you’re teaching them important lessons that will help them for the rest of their lives.

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