Back to school

Tips for getting back into the school routine

Many families relax their evening and morning routines in the summer when kids are out of school. After all, summer vacation was made for relaxation. However, it can be challenging to get back into the school routine when the summer break ends.

Kids who aren’t prepared for the transition from summer break to school often struggle to wake up, get ready and get to school on time. This struggle can continue throughout the year, affecting everything from academic performance to after-school activities and social life. You can help avoid these issues by easing back into a routine before the first day of school.

What does it mean to “ease back into the school routine?” 

Easing back into the school routine means having a plan to gradually make changes so you feel better prepared and less anxious about the return to school.

Many children and teens — even adults — experience some degree of discomfort when routines change unexpectedly. A sudden routine change may cause young children and teens to become uncooperative in an effort to control their anxiety and stress. You can help your family avoid this with a slow transition from the summer routine to the school routine.

By easing your family back into the school routine, you will:

•    Prepare your child for the change so they feel good about going to school, not surprised, nervous or upset
•    Have the opportunity to set a good bedtime for your child before the school year begins
•    Get your family used to the new morning routine before the first day of school
•    Give your child a good start so they can do their best all year

In turn, your child will go to school feeling calm, prepared and rested, which will have a positive impact on every part of their life.

5 steps for getting back into the school routine

1. Start the process about two weeks before the first day of school. This will give your family time to get settled into the new routines.

2. Begin by talking to your child. Remind your child that school starts soon. Tell them the date and how many days until the first day of school. If your child is younger, make it fun by circling the date on a calendar and drawing a smiley face. If your child is older, gift them a planner so they can mark the date themselves and begin making plans for their year. 

If your child is going to kindergarten or starting at a new school, help them get prepared by reading books and stories about kindergarten or being a new student. 

3. Create and test your new morning routine and schedule at least one week before the first day of school. Beyond brushing teeth and getting dressed, every family has a different morning routine and schedule depending on circumstances. You can plan out your family’s new morning agenda for school by asking questions like:

•    What time will I need to wake up to get myself ready and help my child get to school on time?
•    Will my child be eating breakfast at home or at school? If at school, what time does breakfast service end?
•    Will my child be taking a lunchbox to school?
•    If my child will be riding the bus to school, what time will they need to be at the bus stop?
•    If my child will be taking a car, how long does it take to drive to school, and what time will they need to be dropped off?

Look for ways to simplify your routine so that it takes less time to get ready and out the door. Some tips include:

•    Bathe, choose clothing and pack lunches the night before.
•    Make easier, quicker breakfast foods (for example, eat instant oatmeal instead of traditional oatmeal).
•    If you’re driving your child to school, find a shorter route if possible.

Once you know what needs to be done in the morning and how long it will take, test it out. This will give your family time to get comfortable with the new routine and to work out any kinks before the first day of school.

4. Adjust your child’s bedtime according to their sleep needs and the time they need to wake up for school. Sleep is crucial for good academic performance and overall health and well-being. How much sleep your child needs depends on their age. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children aged 6-12 years old get 9-12 hours of sleep and that teens get 8-10 hours of sleep.

If your child’s bedtime is currently later than it should be for school, start moving up their bedtime by 15-minute increments each night until they reach the right bedtime. Do this several days before the first day of school. You’ll have greater success with a gradual bedtime change than with a sudden one.

5. Be sure to attend back-to-school fairs, meetings and orientations. Most schools hold these events for the sole purpose of helping students and families get back into the school routine. Attending will help your child feel ready for the new school year. They’ll get to see their classrooms and meet their teachers and classmates, which can be very helpful for easing anxiety and encouraging excitement for school.

Don’t forget to reward cooperative behavior

Changing your routine is hard, especially if you’re a child. Try to be mindful of this as your family gets back into the school routine.

When your child cooperates, reward their good behavior with a hug and some praise. Rewarding their good behavior will encourage them to cooperate again. Lots of love, hugs and praise will also improve your child’s self-esteem and mental health — two more important things that are needed for success in school.

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