Before you know it, the school bells are ringing and it's time for the kids to head back to school. Do you have your back-to-school routine planned out?
Personalize your family's routine with help from the following ideas. Once you have a routine in place, your family will start the new school year on a bright and less harried note.
Don’t wait too long to establish your back-to-school routine. For example, the longer you wait to get your children into the habit of going to bed at a set bedtime, the harder the time your children will have getting up for school in the morning. Help your kids get into the routine of going to bed earlier by having them choose their clothes and packing their book bags the night before, as well as installing a tried and true bedtime ritual.
Attending a New School
Think about how you felt when you started at a new school. You were probably a bit scared and nervous. Chances are your child will be, too. What can you do to help them feel less scared?
One thing you can do before school starts is to visit their new school. Stop by the front office and explain that your child is going to be attending the school and ask you and your child can have a tour. If someone from the school isn't able to show you around the school, they will probably allow you to walk through on your own.
See if you can meet with your child’s teacher while you’re there. If they’re not available, you can at least find out where your child’s homeroom class will be. You may already have their schedule for the year; try to find all of their classrooms. Walk them through their schedule by going with them to each classroom as they would during school.
Don’t forget about other important locations in the school. Locate the bathrooms, especially the ones along their daily path, so they’ll know where they can go when they have a minute between classes. Find the lunchroom and the library. If they’re involved in sports, find the locker rooms. Do they play an instrument? Find the music room.
Will your child ride the bus, walk to school, or will you take them every day? Find the quickest route for them to get to school if they're going to walk. Take the time to drive them along that route so that they know where they’re going. If you’re going to be driving your child to school, take them with you as you drive by the school. Help them get familiar with the route you’ll take each day.
By taking the time to go with your child to their new school, you're helping them to be prepared. By knowing the layout of their new school, they'll be less likely to get lost, thus making their first day more comfortable.
Decide When to Get Up
It will be much easier to decide what time your children need to go to bed if you know what time they have to get up in the morning. Most experts agree that children need between 9 and 10 hours of sleep each night to be at their best, while 8 hours is the absolute minimum. For example, if you know that your child must be up by 6 a.m. in order to be ready for school by 7:30 a.m., your children should be getting ready for bed around 7:30 p.m. Ensuring that your child goes to bed at the appropriate time means adjusting the entire day's schedule.
When you've decided what time your children need to be up in the morning and when they need to get to sleep, determining a schedule for the remainder of their day will be easier. Here are some things to consider for planning your family's day.
A Good Day Starts with a Good Night’s Sleep
It’s not unusual for parents to allow their children to stay up later during the summer than during the school year. If you’ve been lax with making your children go to bed at a regular time, you may want to start making changes now. Expect your children to complain and try to stay up later, but the earlier they get to bed, the better prepared they’ll be for school.
Explain to your children the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. Tell them that it is during sleep that the body heals itself. Getting enough sleep will give them the energy that they need to stay awake during the school day. A good night’s sleep also lessens crankiness, which makes them easier to be around!
To ensure your children are ready to go back to school, readjust their sleep schedules by putting them to bed earlier enough and waking them up earlier. How is this done? A couple of weeks before the first day of school, put your kids to bed a little earlier each night until they are used to their earlier bed time.
For instance, if your children are used to staying up two hours later than they normally would during the school year, have them go to bed half an hour earlier every night for a few days. Then put them to bed another half hour earlier for a few days until they’re finally going to bed at their designated bedtime for the school year. The earlier you start this process, the easier it will be for them to get used to going to bed early again.
Decide what time your children need to go to sleep. Depending upon their ages and how many children you have, they may have different bed times. If this is the case, have the younger children choose their clothes for the next day before they take a bath, brush their teeth, and put on their pajamas.
Get them in the habit of following a routine every night. If they choose their clothing for the next day, take a bath, brush their teeth, and get into their pajamas every night before they go to bed, you’re transitioning them into settling down. Having a set routine such as this, or any schedule you use as a family, will give them a strong sense of consistency and help them wind down. This can also reduce complaining from your kids about bedtime.
Older children are often allowed to stay up later than younger children, but this doesn't mean that they should be allowed to stay up too late. Have them follow the same routine – choosing their clothes, taking care of their personal needs, and going to bed earlier than normal – so that they’ll be ready to get a good night’s sleep.
Another benefit of getting children to bed earlier in the evening rather than waiting until they get tired is that everyone will be more rested and thus more equipped to face the day ahead. Since they've taken the time to choose their clothing the night before, you won’t be faced with questions like, “Mom, have you seen my blue shirt?” or “Mom, where are my sneakers?” Prepping like this the night before makes the next morning flow much more smoothly.
Once the children are in bed, dim the lighting in their room to a comfortable level. Take this time to enjoy one-on-one time - depending on their age, read them a bedtime story or have a chat about something that happened that day or about something that they want to talk about.
Talk to them about the next day. What activities are planned? Do they have a doctor’s appointment? Will you pick them up from school at an unusual time? What do you have to do after they get home from school? Do you have to run to the store or take care of other errands? Anything you can do to prepare them for the next day will make things easier on the whole family.
When it's finally time for bed, tell your child that you love them, kiss them goodnight, and turn out the lights. Older children are allowed to sit up and read quietly for a little while before lights out. Take this time to prep for the day ahead and relax.
Things You Can Do to Make Tomorrow Flow Better
Sit down and look at your calendar. Are there things that have to be done tomorrow? Make a list, prioritize, and then post it where you can find it in the morning. Think about all of the places you have to be – the dry cleaners, the grocery store, the library, etc. – and plan your schedule. Make a large circle, if possible, rather than crisscrossing around town. If you have to pick up refrigerated groceries, make that your last stop to ensure that your food doesn't thaw.
When the school years starts, expect the school to send work home for the parents to look over. After the children are in bed and you’ve had a chance to relax, get your child’s backpack. Look through it to see if there are any papers you need to sign, any important dates to write on the calendar, and take care of everything before you put it off. Place everything that requires your attention back into the backpack and place it near the door you’ll exit. This will decrease your chances of being surprised by a field trip or important event that your child forgot to tell you about.
Set the table for breakfast the night before. Plan what will be served for breakfast and place all corresponding dishes on the table. This may not seem important but it can save you a decent chunk of time during the morning rush.
Will your children take their lunch to school or will they purchase it there? If your children are brown-bagging it, prepare as much of their lunch the night before that you can. Depending upon what they’re taking, you may be able to prepare the entire meal and have it ready for them to grab from the refrigerator and head out the door.
Morning Routines Are Important
One item you may want to purchase for your children at the beginning of the school year is an alarm clock. By giving your child an alarm clock, you're giving them some of the responsibility in getting up on time. Does this mean that you won’t have to nudge them to get them out of bed when school first starts? Absolutely not; in fact, chances are you’ll have to remind them over and over to get up, get dressed, and eat so that they can get to school on time.
It may be best to wake children up early the first week or so of school until they’re able to rise and get ready by themselves. As they become more accustomed to their new schedule, you can let them sleep a little later. Remember, you want them to have ample time to get dressed, eat breakfast, and gather their things before they head out. If they ride a school bus, they need to be ready when the bus comes by. However, if you take them to school, they may have a little more flexibility in their morning routine.
For younger children, it's a good idea to create a chart of things that they need to do each day. You may want to use pictures to create a “to-do” list with the following items:
- Get dressed – picture of clothing (shirt, pants, socks, and shoes)
- Eat breakfast – picture of food
- Brush teeth – picture of toothbrush and toothpaste
- Get ready to go – picture of backpack and lunch bag
Older children may not need pictures, but having a list of what they need to do each day is still helpful. Post a list in several places around the house, like their bedroom, the bathroom, and the refrigerator so that they don’t have to keep running through the house to figure out what’s next. Place the list in a sheet protector so that they can cross or check the items off.
Medical experts and nutritionists espouse the benefits of eating a healthy breakfast every morning. Not only does breakfast give the body the energy it needs after a relatively long period of not receiving nutrients, it also helps people focus. Eating breakfast improves a child’s concentration and allows him to perform better in school.
If your child doesn't want to eat a full breakfast, find foods that they can eat quickly but that will still provide the nutrients that their body needs. Most experts recommend eating a serving of protein first thing in the morning. Scrambled eggs on toast, yogurt and fruit, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread are good options for breakfast. Be creative with breakfast!
Don’t forget to put breakfast dishes in the dishwasher. If you don’t have a dishwasher, scrape off extra food, rinse the dishes, and stack them in the sink. Run a sink of hot, soapy water to allow the dishes to soak while you’re away for the day. This will make cleaning the dishes easier when you come home from a long day.
Leave the house with plenty of time to get to school. Warm up the car when the weather is cold. Leave a little bit earlier than you actually need to; you never know when you’ll have a flat or traffic will be heavier than normal.
After-School Routines Are Important, Too
Afternoon routines are different for every family. When both parents work, children often don’t go home directly after school. Whatever your situation, remember to create a schedule or routine which will best serve your family.
Find a routine that works for your family. Make changes until you find what works for your family and then stick with it. Your goal should be to develop a schedule that fits your family’s needs, not feel like you’re fighting against something that simply doesn't work.
Your child may want to watch TV as soon as they return home from school, but this isn't a good use of their time. Establish an after school routine that prioritizes homework. What would your routine look like?
Depending on what time your children get home, they may or may not have much time to relax. Give them a half hour or so to change clothes and get a healthy snack before sitting down to do homework. Even though a half hour doesn't seem like much time, it should be enough for them to transition between being at school to being at home where they have more freedom.
For some parents, it’s not possible to be at home with their children as they get out of school. In this case, make other after-school arrangements for them. Arrange for them to remain at the school's after-school session, have a friend pick them up and take them home, or have a family member come and get them. Unless they're older, don't allow children to remain at home by themselves.
For children who are old enough to be at home alone, establish specific rules. This includes keeping the doors and windows locked, remaining in the house, not answering the telephone or door while you’re away, and staying off the computer or Internet when you’re not home. Alert a trusty neighbor that your child may need to check in with them if they have any problems.
As far as what your child does when they get home, many parents and teachers recommend having children do homework shortly after arriving home. The information that they have just learned in school will be fresh in their minds. The longer they wait to do homework, the more the information will begin to fade and the more difficulty they’ll have completing it without help.
It's important to be available to your children while they’re doing homework in case they need help. Suggest they work at the kitchen table so that you can work on dinner while they work on their homework.
Let them take a break between subjects or at regular intervals, like every half hour. A break may be enough time for them to complete their daily chores, such as tidying up their room or taking out the trash. After their chores are done, they can get back to their homework until dinner.
When dinner time arrives, ask your child to help you set the table. Enjoy a leisurely meal and each other. Talk about the day and what activities your child wants to be involved with. This will give you an idea of what changes you’ll need to make to your routine.
It's wise to have a specific time for mealtime and snack time. Having meals at a set time each day will accomplish a couple of things - firstly, your children will know when to expect to eat and they’ll know what time they have to be home each day. Regular meals and snacks will also help your children learn good eating habits.
Once everyone has eaten and dinner is cleaned up, have some family time before the children begin getting ready to settle in for the night. Watch a television, play a board game, or do something that is relaxing for everyone. Read a book aloud. Find a classic story that everyone likes and read it together. This time will transition nicely into your nightly routine.
When it’s time for the children to get ready for bed, use the routine you’ve been working on for the last couple of weeks. Continue to use that routine as long as it works for your family. Make adjustments when necessary, but try to keep it consistent. Remember, this routine will prepare them for a good night’s sleep which translates to a rested child and a good morning.
Scheduling After School Activities
Restrict television and computer time until all school work is completed. Even when there is free time after homework is done, you may still want to limit time with electronics. With modern technology, there’s no reason you can’t record things you want to watch and then do so at your convenience. (With many on-demand programs, you can reduce watching time by fast forwarding through the commercials.)
A lot of children are involved in several extracurricular activities throughout the school year. However, if time together as a family is important to you, you may want to restrict your children from being involved in too many activities per school semester. Take time to find out which activities are truly important to your child and then try to work those into your family’s routine.
If your kids want to play sports, it's wise to consider how much time this will take up every week. Not only will they be required to practice, there will also be games to attend. Games require traveling to different towns. The same is true for other activities. All of these things need to be taken into account before deciding which activities to sign your child up for.
At the beginning of the school year, sit down as a family and talk about everyone's schedule. List each person and their known activities. This includes business meetings, extracurricular school activities, volunteering as a family, religious activities, and vacations.
When the list is complete, create a centralized calendar that is available to everyone. Plug in each activity using a specific color for each person. When the activities are all written down, you will be able to see how busy your family will be. You may decide everyone is too busy and cut back on some things.
Plan one day a month to go over the centralized family calendar. Ask each family member if the routines you’ve established are working for them. What works? What doesn't work? Decide as a family how to make changes to the routine that will the best fit for everyone.
Your goal in creating a good back-to-school routine is to get in the habit of doing certain things at specific times. One you have the routine in place, you’ll want to follow it. This will make your day run smoother as well as allow everyone to know what to expect. While there may be times when you can’t follow your routine exactly as planned, having a routine or schedule will become a source of stability for your family.
When summer is over and it’s time to return to school again, having a good routine in place can be a godsend. Routines help us to know what to expect every day, they help us prepare for the next day, and they help everyone stay organized as well as prepare them for the future. Children may balk at the prospect of returning to school in the fall but they’ll soon get back into the swing of things. Before you know it, your home will be running smoothly.