Heading back to school can be stressful for everyone – parents and children alike. Transitioning from summer vacation time to school mode isn’t always easy, and there’s no doubt parents will be looking for ways to simplify things. Here’s 5 tips to help streamline and create a slightly less stressful back to school plan for the whole family!
1. Routines are crucial
Whether it’s a morning routine that sets you and your family up for the day or one done the evening before, creating an established schedule of events ahead of time will save you potential struggles. Ideally, you can create a routine that must happen before the kids come to breakfast – things as simple as making sure they’ve made their beds, brushed their hair, or even just changing out of their pajamas. Getting these small tasks done allows your family to ease into a morning that will only get busier as the time passes! As we know, kids move a bit more slowly than adults, and being patient with them will pay off if you’ve set expectations ahead of time – for both them and you.
Before the kids go to bed, set out their clothes for the next day and have the backpack packed for any activities, plus making lunch ahead of time will simplify the start of the day.
2. Bedtime, on time
Kids need rest, and while they’re sleeping you can finally get a few things done and take some time for yourself. Determining a consistent bedtime as much as possible will help set a nighttime routine during the back to school days. What series of events would help? Hygiene is king here – does a bath need to happen? If so, back up the bedtime because we know once they’re in the bath, they won’t want to leave. How long should they brush their teeth? Allow them the space and time to get this done.
Don’t forget more relaxing routines like reading - whether you have a youngster in preschool or middle school, carving out time to read will ease the mind into relaxation before bed. Some kids (and adults!) need a longer transition to calmness, so take that into account and set aside extra quiet time for books, light play, or even a little snuggle.
School sometimes continues after hours, and it becomes a nightmare for all involved if homework doesn’t get done on time. It comes fast and furious as the kids move through their school years, and fitting homework into a daily routine can be as scary a task for parents as it is for students.
Creating rules around homework such as where and when will it be done can help. Some kiddos want a private space for schoolwork set up in their rooms, while some need extra love and support from their families and would rather use the kitchen table as a classroom substitute. No matter where it’s done, it’s wise to ensure it gets finished before anything else that evening – first the work, then the fun. While it may be a struggle to get homework started, it’s the simpler and smarter way to prepare for the remaining hours of the night, ensuring a restful sleep for at least some in the house.
4. After-school activities
Kids and activities go together like peanut butter and jam. Most children (and parents) feel better when they can be creative or active, and these extracurricular outlets allow them to learn and grow in different ways than they do during the day at school. Whether it’s hockey, dance, theatre, or even cooking classes, kids thrive in collaborative and fun environments, while parents are rewarded with a little time to themselves.
But how much is too much? There’s definitely such a thing as overscheduling, and when it comes to balancing kids’ activities with their schoolwork and their downtime, sometimes there’s an imbalance. In some cases, less really is more - simplifying their schedule might seem daunting, but the odds are it will benefit for the whole family. Perhaps you can shift activities from one day to another and allow yourself a slight reprieve. Carpooling is another option that can ease the stress of the transportation and take some of the time management pressure off. We know kids need to be active, but we also know that there’s a breaking point – and it’s best to take notice before you reach it.
5. Ease into the new schedule
There is a tendency once back-to-school season begins to jump in with both feet, when in fact this is a period of change for everyone. Whether it’s a child starting a new grade, new school, or new activity, it can all seem overwhelming and exhausting. Parents feel the weight of having to keep up with everyone else, and kids are suddenly too tired to even relay their school stories to their families.
Simple steps forward before fully engaging in the new schedule will go a long way to ease the fatigue. You don’t start any new program at the highest level, so set expectations and allow your child’s schedule to develop versus the other way around. Children will react to the stress brought on by the newness around them, and some will respond well while others may require more time to adapt. Adults, too, need time to accept and adjust to the changes in their schedules. Taking things slow and steady can help relieve the pressure on what’s already a stressful time of year.
Adulting is hard, especially when you have both your own and your children’s schedules to manage. Keep things simple, and know that if you’re going through this back-to-school chaos, there are many others who can relate.