For most families in the U.S., this week or next week means back to school.
Back to school can mean different things for different families, but across the board it’s a potentially stressful situation. If the kids have adjusted to staying up and sleeping in late all summer, getting back to a regular routine can be tough. If the family has been traveling a great deal over the summer, shifting back to regular home life can be an adjustment. Resuming school year habits of homework, preparing lunches and a more regular sleep schedule can be the source of arguments—or a time for fun bonding and building traditions.
A few tips to make back to school easier on everyone:
1. Start adjusting sleep schedules at least a week ahead of time.
Some people manage to maintain the same sleep schedule during summer, holidays and weekends as well. If that’s you, skip ahead to number two. For those of us that like to stay up and enjoy or sleep a little later when we can, shifting gradually can help prevent lots of crankiness and arguments during the first week back to school (for the adults as well as the children).
2. Don’t over-hype the first day back.
Children, especially young children, look to their parents for cues whether a situation is cause for stress or not. If you are calm about the first day of school (especially with big milestones like Kindergarten or middle school) it can help allay any fears they have about it. Asking open-ended questions about school starting can be a great way to start conversations and allow them to express their feelings without adding your own spin on the events.
3. But do celebrate the end of summer.
Besides holidays and birthdays, seasonal transitions provide a great natural time for passing along traditions or starting your own new ones. If your area has a farmers’ market that winds down at the end of summer, a family visit can become a tradition. Popcorn and a movie set up like a slumber party is simple and nearly free, but huge fun. It doesn’t have to be something elaborate or expensive; often times the at-home things are the ones your kids will remember the most.
4. Curtail the extra sugar.
Along with homework, back to school can mean back to being packed in a room with 25 other kids. While cold season is awhile off, being cooped up all day with other children (who are often not the best hand washers) can quickly open your child up to colds and flu. Healthy eating habits, including minimizing sugar, can help boost the immune system and keep them ready for school.
5. Assemble everything ahead of time to make the first day less chaotic.
This seems like a no-brainer, but so many of us wait until the last minute rush. Pack the school supplies in the children’s backpacks right when you buy them. Pack school lunches the night before. Make sure the clothes they want are clean and ready to go. Anything and everything that can be done ahead will make that first morning more enjoyable for everyone. If 99 percent of the prep is done ahead of time, you have extra time to start a new tradition of a peaceful first day of school breakfast instead of cranky rushing around and barely making the bus.
Photo credit: Flickr / bsabarnowl