How to Prepare for the Back-to-School Routine.
It didn't seem too long ago when we were wrapping up the school year in June and anticipating the summer holidays. In the blink of an eye, we are getting ready to go back to school. Some of us have already started classes. Yikes! Already?
Whether you are looking forward to or dreading back to school, here are some tips to help you and your family gently transition back to the routines and mindset of school.
Tip #1: Breathe
Let’s face it. Mornings are pretty stressful for us parents as we round up our troops for mass exodus out the door to make sure we all get where we need to be on time. Especially parents with multiple children, we are often caught yelling and feeling like a drill sergeant. Remember that you are not the only family that goes through this.
Knowing that you are not alone makes it slightly reassuring, but one tip to help you physically feel better is to remember to breathe! There are hundreds of versions out there that teach you to take slow deep mindful breaths, so find one that works best for you. The one I like is what they call the 5+2=7 formula and it goes like this. Give it a try now.
First, breath in through your nose for 5 seconds.
Hold your breath for 2 seconds.
Then slowly breathe out through your mouth for 7 seconds.
Close your eyes for an added effect. I find that when I do this, I relax a little and feel less anxious. Practice the mindful habit of deep breathing now so you can remember to do this when you face the back to school routines.
Tip #2: Get back into sleep and wake routines.
Kids often stay up late in the summer months, but it's important to start getting back into routine and ensuring they get a proper night's rest. Having a restful sleep not only improves your child's physical health, but it also helps kids pay more attention in class and improves learning and memory. According to Canada's current recommended guidelines (which aligns with other major countries), they recommend 9-11 hours of sleep per night for children ages 5-13, and 8-10 hours of sleeps per night for teens 14-17.
Start moving bedtime/downtime a bit earlier every night. If you start now, they will be able to adjust and be ready by the time school begins. Use 10-minute increments to slowly move bedtime back to their school night sleep schedules. Though your kids may not fall asleep right away, they can use this time to quiet and calm their brains down. Turn off devices and fast tempo music. Turn up slow relaxing melodies or have them read a book or do something quiet. Start to also wake up your late sleepers a bit earlier each day. My teenage son loves to sleep in so I need to get a start on this one.
Tip #3: Limit and reduce screen time.
During the summer, parents are usually more lenient with allowing their kids to be on screen whether it is to play video games, or be online or watch tv. But once school begins, their time will be blocked out not only with school from 9-3, but also with homework and extracurricular activities in the evenings and weekends. It’s important to start breaking this “habit” of being on the screen especially in the hours leading to bedtime. The blue light from screens keeps our brains stimulated while also reduces melatonin production. Have a conversation about screen time and how September will look very different from what they are allowed to do now. Again, gradual change here works better than going cold turkey.
Tip #4: Let your child choose their school supplies.
I love shopping for school supplies, so this one is definitely challenging for me to do. It’s important to let your kids make some of the decisions when it comes to making back to school purchases. Whether it’s a backpack, clothing, new kicks, or good old stationery, having your kids make choices gives them a sense of ownership and pride. So when it comes to wearing that pair of sneakers, or writing with the pens they choose, they enjoy putting on those shoes and doing their assignments and homework with their chosen supplies. An added bonus with this is that it encourages them to not lose their items as easily because they have a better sense of ownership with their things.
Tip #5: Create a backpack and homework area.
In your home, set up an area where they will hang up their backpack and organize a space for them to do their homework. On the first week of school, start to create a habit for your child to hang and empty out their bags at the designated bag area. If you have more than one child, organize a separate space so things don’t get mixed up.
Set up a homework area for your child to work that is quiet but still in close proximity so you can oversee their progress. With older children, they can work independently in their rooms but make sure they have a clear space to do homework that is free from clutter. Allocating a physical space for their bags and for their studies helps your child form healthy habits and organization skills. You are encouraging them to strengthen their executive functioning skills which is pivotal to success in their academic achievements.
Tip #6: Set up a family calendar.
Most of us have extra-curricular schedules that are booked to the hour. From sports to tutoring, most kids these days have some kind of “extra” class. Keeping organized and on top of everyone’s schedules is no easy feat and some of us thank our phones and online calendars for that. Thank you TeamSnap (IYKYK)! Besides digital versions, I also love physical planners and whiteboards. I prefer writing up the schedule so everyone in the family (including my kids) can see what they need to do, where they need to be, and at what time they need to be there for. As mentioned, it is important to give your kids accountability and a sense of ownership. If you don't have a monthly family calendar that kids can read, set one up on a whiteboard. That way your child can learn the schedule and get ready for the activities and build their sense of responsibility and independence. For example, if little Jordan has swimming lessons at 4:30pm, he can see that on the calendar, and learn to pack his own bag and prepare for it - all without you having to do it. Setting up a system and having your child be involved with planning sets the pace for time management, another key skill that builds toward their academic achievements.
Tip #7: Start talking about the excitement of the next grade.
Talk about what they can expect in the new school year. If your child is starting K-3, anticipate the play and recess time with old and new friends, and the opportunity to read more great stories, and create more art projects in school. If your child is transitioning to the intermediate and middle school years, talk about the “privileges” they get now that they are the older kids in the school. Talk about the more creative school projects that they will get to design and research about. If your kids are going to high school, share your fun high school experiences and talk about the changes they will see in the next grade. Talk about joining unique clubs and having their own lockers. They will have more freedom as they can roam around the hallways and make new friends. If your child is feeling a little anxious about the start of school, encourage them to ask questions and help them debunk any fears they may have. Having conversations and keeping open communication with your child is key, and this helps continue conversations throughout the school year.
Another great conversation to have with your child is the value of having a growth mindset. A new school year means that they will be firing and wiring more neurons to make their brains grow! Having a growth mindset is key to success and motivation for learning. Find tips in this article about how to build your child's growth mindset.
Whether you are still in full holiday mode or anticipating and counting down the days before school starts, I encourage you to start trying out some of these tips to be ready for school. They will help your child -and you- begin the year with a successful start. If you are already all set and back to school already, now is also the perfect time to set small goals and create healthy habits. Check out this article for tips on how to set healthy habits and to start a new September habit tracker. Best wishes to you!
In my next blog, I will share some strategies on how your kids can become more organized and successful in their studies. Subscribe here to have this next article sent to your email.