There’s nothing like getting the kids back to school. By the end of very long summer holidays I was always delighted to see my little darlings back to school and into a better routine. Don’t get me wrong I love my kids (think mamma bear and triple it when it comes to my children) but I knew I needed them into a better routine as things always fell to pieces during the summer holidays. But how do you get them back into a routine? Think planning and organization before the big day arrives. You need to start now, it’s not just about getting the uniforms and books, but also about establishing some routines now and maybe some new ground rules if your teen is off to secondary school for the first time. And be prepared for some cranky first couple of weeks with tired children who don’t want to go to bed earlier.
Where to begin oh where do I begin?
New school either primary or secondary?
- If attending a new school, try to have visited your child’s school in advance. Let your child get familiar with classrooms, hallways and important offices. Hopefully, you’ll have attended the open days with your child.
- Friends Connection: Find out if there are any friends, relatives or neighbours in their class. Knowing a child and creating a buddy system makes the transition to move more smoothly.
- If you’re new to an area but know one of your neighbour’s children are attending that school, set up a play date or if you have an older child/teen ask the other child/teen to explain the school layout, routines etc to your child. Maybe they’ll be kind enough to introduce your child/teen to other students.
- Make sure you’ve done your homework: Talk to the teacher and the principal in advance. If your school has a parent’s liaison officer introduce yourself and your family ( they are very handy people to get to know). Tell them of any concerns you have in regard to your children’s health, and apprise them of any learning problems in advance. Consider joining Parents Association (PTA) it’s more than fundraising, you get to hear more about what’s going on in the school and have your say in how the school runs things.
Starting this week! This is your homework parents.
- Start a bedtime schedule now. Yes, I know, but even if you bring it back by 5/10 minutes a night it will be better by the time they go back. As an adult, we know how cranky we get when we are tired, and so do our children. Remember that they don’t have our coping skills.
- Safety first is a very important part of preparing for the first day of any school term. You want your children to know traffic safety as well as physical safety. Young children should know their name, how to spell it if possible, their home telephone number and the number of a safe and responsible adult that is designated by their parents.
- Let’s talk bullying: Teach your child the proper way in advance to deal with bullies by reporting them to a teacher. Know your school’s policy on bullying in person and online. For more information about effects of bullying Spunout
- For help with apps to make sure you children are safe online click here ( updated blog posts on online safety weekly)
- Talk with your children about their feelings and invite them to participate in a conversation that gives them some sense of control. Never embarrass/discount/demean your children’s feelings. Ask them how they would like to be helped in this transition — what things parents can do and they can do as partners to make the first day of school a pleasant beginning. This is called the empathic process, and if you invest children in the discussion, they are more likely to follow a smooth outcome and go happily to school.
- Discuss your morning routine with your child to make it go smoothly each day.
- Plan healthy lunches and snacks. get to know your school’s policy on healthy lunches. Tip: Try to get these packed the night (older children can make their own lunches) before it was always a big help in the mornings if I did this. Make kids responsible for getting their lunch into their bags in the morning.
- Organize clothing. A little holiday declutter will help as well as a reorganization of their rooms if needed. Get them on board for this, particularly teens, let them know what you expect but allow them to keep their rooms as they please. Give them supplies they need wastepaper basket, laundry bin, desk, shelves, etc. You could ask them to tackle one thing at a time e.g only tackle one type of clothing today & only keep what makes you happy. Sometimes items have happy memories for that child but no longer fit. You can frame it or keep it in a box of keepsakes in the wardrobe. A box of things to be decided upon later can also be kept in the wardrobe, make sure it has a date on it for 6 months time & if you haven’t used it by then, it’s gone! Make sure kids have an easy system in place for clothes, they might find it too hard to hang up clothes but they can place them in cubby holes. Having hanging cubby holes in the wardrobe instead of hangers. A routine of keeping certain things done in their bedroom should be taught from a young age: so keeping clothes off the floor & bed, cups etc., brought back to the kitchen, rubbish in a waste basket. (Yes I can hear my children laugh when they read this. They were so messy – don’t know if it’s a dyslexic thing still – I gave up in the end and just shut the door on the chaos as they got older)
- Set up a central staging area. One area where school bags, shoes, PE gear and coats are placed the night before.
- Update medical records. Do they need boosters?
- Allocate a school home work area with supplies and a home policy on this. We always had an after school policy on this with the children, it’s up to you.
- Friends reconnect: if they have some friends they haven’t seen in a while invite them over to connect before school starts.
- Don’t over schedule them, children need time off to just play. Make sure they get to do the activities they love too. They need to do this for stress relief too.
When you get back to school
- Get a family calendar. Mark up all the school holiday etc., and leave it where the children can see them. They can’t learn to plan if you don’t show them so have them. Keep a calendar in their bedrooms too with all their appointments, activities, hobbies and school holidays marked into it. You can do this twice a year: September to December and then over Christmas, everyone gets a new calendar, complete January to June/July depending on when your school year ends. Having routines is especially important to a child with special needs, they like to see what is happening next, so make sure the calendar is kept up to date and you tell them what’s happening.
- Chat about today’s events and tomorrow’s plans. Building this conversation into your day – even if it’s just in the car on the way home from school – this builds a good relatioship and bond with your child. It shows them you care about how school went for them. It doesn’t have to be about awards or fights, it just allows them to vent sometimes. Listening to their concerns is more important. Teens may go through the grunting stage of communication, but still, keep up the conversation ask how things went. Offer to drive home their friends – you’ll learn so much this way as they come to think of you as part of the car. Don’t tackle them in front of their friends if you hear anything that concerns you. Wait until later when you and your partner can talk to them together. Remember listen first to them, talk afterwards. If you model active listening they will learn it.
- Ease into the routine.
Switching from a summer to a school schedule can be stressful to everyone in the household. Avoid first-day-of-school mayhem by practising your routine a few days in advance. Set the alarm clock, go through your morning rituals, and get in the car or to the bus stop on time. Routines help children feel comfortable, and establishing a solid school routine will make the first day of school go much smoother. Very helpful if you have a child with special needs too.
- Teach your kids how to study, revise ( see the Pomodoro method here) brain dump & make a study plan. Don’t assume the school has taught them. Show them how to Mind map, this is a great tool for kids and adults to have (click here on how to do this)
- Set up a dedicated area for study teens, this needs to be a separate area as they study for longer than younger children. Make sure they have everything they need, extra colored pens. pencils, rulers, paper, study light, shelves, folders, storage boxes etc. Some teens will be better at this than others so they might need help.
- Teens need to have their phones with them while studying (for the most part) but you need them to do homework? What’s your policy in the home on phones & homework? Some kids will be better with their phones, as they can keep an eye on what’s going on with friends – reduced anxiety – others will find it too distracting You need to compromise, you need some rules and you need to practice what you preach too. A free guide for parents in managing technology disttactions for kids can be gotten here
- Teach them how to meditate/yoga etc. They need to learn to reduce their stress levels in some way even a 30-minute walk after dinner.
- Help them get organised, don’t assume they know how to do this just because you’re someone who is super organised.
- Set up reward charts for kids that need them – good for bed wetting, nail-biting, sleeping in own bed, please rule out any medical conditions first and check if your child has anxiety about anything.
- Teach them how to overcome procrastination. Don’t pile on guilt about a project that might not have been started yet, but instead ask can you help them. They could be feeling overwhelmed. Make sure they can brainstorm, ( see above) help them with ideas if need help. Show them how to break down projects into smaller pieces. ( see link to time management above re Pomodoro method)
- Make sure to check their homework diary every day with younger kids and at least every week with teens. Know the school’s policy on homework, they do have one.
Ok to Summarise
- Start introducing a better bedtime routine.
- Make friends connection.
- Get family calendar & get it marked up till Christmas.
- Make a designated area for study younger children/teen separated areas if possible.
- Make sure children are aware of safety issues both online and in person.
- Get study supplies organised, teach them how to study, brain dump, mind map and revise.
- Set up your staging area for bags etc.
- Allow time for kids to talk about returning to school find out if they have any concerns or worries particularly if starting a new school.
- Plan healthy lunches together with kids.
- Have the study/phone conversation before the teens go back to school.
- Have a declutter before school starts.
- Don’t over schedule them, let them have time off to play too.
- Teach them how to meditate or take care of their stress appropriately
Finally, give yourself a break, for most of us, it’s always a stressful time. So plan for that and don’t lose your patience with yourself and your children. Take some time out during this time for you to reduce your stress levels.
If you have any queries please don’t be afraid to ask. I’m always happy to help. If you have any tips for other parents please leave them in the comments section below. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for more.
If you’d like to make an appointment please contact me 089-4373641