Smoothly Transitioning Back to School
by Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (sign up for monthly parenting newsletter and receive 20+ printable charts for kids and parents)
Transitioning from the laid-back, flexible summer schedule to the intense school schedule can be tough. Summer days have few deadlines. In contrast, school days involve daily deadlines from getting to school on time to turning homework in. No wonder it’s a difficult change to make!
All transitions involve an ending. It’s hard to have something you enjoy come to an end. You may still wish to hold onto the summer even as it slips away.
Even if you and your kids are looking forward to school starting, the end of summer can bring up feelings like sadness, grief, and anxiety. Kids often feel a mixture of excitement and nervousness as the first day of school approaches. Their confidence builds when they find the courage to go despite anxious feelings.
Identifying School Morning Stressors
How can you plan to make the transition as smooth as possible for both you and your kids? One place to start is to look at your morning routine. What does your ideal school morning look like? What drives you crazy in the morning?
Do any of these things stress you out?
- Screaming at your kids to get out of bed.
- Seeing wet towels left on the floor.
- Rushing around in a desperate attempt to find library books that are due.
- Arguing over appropriate clothes to wear to school.
- Scrambling to complete school forms that are due.
- Nagging your kids to brush their teeth.
- Reminding your kids for the umpteenth time to hurry up so they aren’t late.
You probably can easily rattle off the things that push your buttons. Now the trick is to change the game so that your mornings are pleasant instead of panic filled.
Envisioning Your Ideal Morning
How would you like your ideal morning to go? One way to do this is look at the opposite of what you do not want.
So for everything listed above that was stressful, what do you want instead?
- Your kids have woken up on their own to their alarms and gotten out of bed.
- All towels have been hung up after showering.
- Your kids have found the library books that are due and put them in their backpacks the previous night.
- You’ve discussed what clothes are appropriate for school. Your kids understand the guidelines and have lined out what they will wear the night before.
- All school forms that are due have been completed and put in their backpacks the night before.
- Your kids have their own morning chart they use to make sure they get everything done – including brushing their teeth!
- Your kids take responsibility for getting out the door on time. You’ve already established the consequences for being late or needing a ride from you.
Identifying how you would like the morning to go is the first step in making it happen. The next step is turning responsibility over to your kids and teaching them any skills that they are missing.
You will want to make sure your kids share your understanding of each task. For example, ask your kids to describe how the bathroom should look after they are done using it in the morning. If their description doesn’t match yours, you can then clarify what you would like.
Setting Your Family Up For Success
While getting the morning started off positively is wonderful, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Your kids’ school success is also helped by
establishing healthy habits for after school and evenings
. You and your kids undoubtedly have many things going on after school.
How can you keep track of everyone’s activities and reduce the stress caused by “surprise” commitments?
Having weekly family meetings
can be a terrific way to get everyone on the same page.
During this meeting, review what’s happening in the upcoming week. Make sure all the activities are on your family calendar. When you are done, place the calendar where everyone can easily see it.
You may also want to use this meeting time to discuss any issues going on within the family and brainstorm possible solutions. Some families keep a notebook where anyone can add items they would like to discuss at the next meeting. This same notebook can be used to keep notes of any decisions made during each meeting.
If your kids split their time between two households, it can be more difficult to keep everything straight. Using a 2-week time chart
that shows both who they will be with and what activities are going on each day can be helpful.
When you are considering your family’s schedule, also aim for enough downtime that allows each person to recharge themselves. There’s nothing like stressed out, overscheduled kids or parents to bring families to their breaking point!
It’s up to you to figure out what works best for keeping your family running smoothly. By striving for a healthy balance between activities and rest, the transition to the busier school routine will be more enjoyable for everyone.