For most families, school is just around the corner. And now is a good time to start working on the upcoming school routine! If you plan a bit now to fine-tune the routine you’ll use during the school year, you’ll be a lot less stressed and you’ll save time, too!
Below are some ideas for making next year’s school routine easier and happier. Most of these ideas pertain to the morning transition to school. I can’t do justice to every aspect of the school schedule in this newsletter, and also, the morning transitions can be especially difficult for parents and kids. Morning is also a really important time that really sets the tone for the rest of the day. Let’s start the day off right! Here are some ways to do that:
1. Get clear about what’s hardest. First, ask yourself, What was the hardest part of the morning last year?? Then, WORK WITH YOUR CHILD to see how you can improve things this year. Ask for their ideas. Take every idea seriously, even if it doesn’t make perfect sense to you, and if their idea is workable, go with it. It’s amazing how much more kids are willing to problem-solve when they have a genuine say in the solution and they feel you’re taking their ideas seriously.
2. Be honest about sleep requirements. What time are you getting up? If your child is slow to wake up, you should probably start the morning earlier. Yes, that means you need to start bedtime earlier, too! 7:00 is a great bedtime target for kids under 6. If you need help with bedtime, call me.
3. Start with a snuggle. Kids (grownups, too) need real connection with a loved one first thing in the morning. Snuggles first thing work well for kids of all ages, but if your kid is older and they’d resist a physical snuggle, how about a chat while you sit on their bed? Everyone benefits from connecting with family before the day begins. This really does make a big difference.
4. Get the hard stuff over with. This strategy applies to a lot of undertakings: See if you and your kids can begin the day with the hardest tasks (getting dressed? Eating breakfast?), so you’re not saving the worst for last.
5. Tired of nagging? Enjoy some music! As you move through the morning tasks, follow a playlist of songs that signal when the various tasks should begin and end. Compile this list with your kids. Following a playlist really facilitates awareness of time and the pace that is needed to complete the various tasks on time. These musical cues are also more objective – they’re not coming from you.
Other key considerations
Down time, outside time, and physical activity. A really big part of what makes school so hard is long school hours and schedules that don’t let kids get outside or be active in the ways they need. It is hard to find that balance in today’s world, but kids (and grownups) NEED down time, they need to get outside, and they need plenty of physical activity! And finding the right balance in these areas will significantly reduce dis-ease and stress.
If the kids must be in an after-school program, try to enroll them in one that gets them out in nature. If they don’t need to be in a program, then keep these to a minimum, and if you pick them up from school and you’re able, stop by a park or the woods on your way home. You might also ensure that the family is spending some weekend time outside, in nature. And if everyone can get to school by walking or biking vs. driving, this is another way to get physical outside.
Down time, outside time and physical activity are essential and they play a huge role in helping us unwind; but genuine connection with others also helps us decompress. This being the case, it’s helpful to reframe household-related work as an opportunity for kids and parents to connect. A lot of my clients say they don’t want to give their kids chores because chores interfere with down-time. But if you’re really busy and there’s not a lot of time to really connect and be with your kids, it will definitely serve you to find a way to involve the kids in the household-related work you do.
Can they help make dinner or school lunches? If there’s not much time to just be with your kids on a daily basis, consider that spending time together in work activities may be the only time you have; and find a way to involve the kids in a low-key way, where a main purpose is to be together. And again, if you need help with this, call me. “Involving the kids” might take a minute if the kids aren’t used to helping around the house, but it’s well worth it to do what’s needed to make this happen.
There’s a lot about the school year that can be challenging, but if you plan for it now, you can make it easier. If your school hasn’t started yet, adopt as much of the school-year schedule as you can a week before school starts, so you can ease back in – and work out the bugs before D-Day!