By the summer’s end, many kids — and parents — are ready to get back to school. Getting back into a routine, however, takes more than getting your rhythm back AFTER classes begin. It takes a bit of planning before the day rears its academic head.
As former kids — and current parents, in some cases — we’ve both lived and researched the different ways to prepare for the inevitable back-to-school.
Here, for your reading pleasure, are three things we lamented as kids that as parents we came at with a bit more understanding and insight. We know back-to-school is pretty much in full swing at this point, but this is something you can keep in mind for next year or even as you find yourselves on winter and spring break. Because, let’s be honest, anytime you upend your normal routine for any length of time, getting back into that familiar rhythm takes a bit of planning.
First, (kids) I’m so tired! I can’t get used to getting up so early! (Parents) Let’s get back into your school bed schedule before you go back.
Yep, that’s the first thing I remember when I was going back to school. My parents were crazy busy humans so taking the time to slowly work me back into my school bedtime schedule beforehand was not on their radar. It was also another era — not important when — and that kind of attention to kid detail just wasn’t a thing. That meant, the night before the first day back to academia, I was up late, picking then changing then trying on then changing again what outfit to wear, a bag of excitement mixed with anxiety, and probably got four hours sleep. The rest of that first week remained an odd combination of homework, still on my summer “hang out late because I basically have nothing to do tomorrow” bedtime and a “drag ass” out of bed and off to school. I felt like the bags under my eyes were down to my knees and it took me a while before I got the hang of this world again.
When I became a parent and my children started at school, I remembered those days and looked up ways to NOT have that happen. The relaxed nature of off time works itself into your life, however. Bedtime, getting up, even chores take a sort of vacay and become their own unique anomaly. What, then, is the answer to not having your kid falling asleep in class as soon as they return?
Plan to slowly work them back into their non-summer routine. Sit them down about two weeks before school is back in session and explain that it’s time to get ready to go back in a way that makes it that much easier. And, yep, putting it into the “this is all about making that transition easier for you” POV is really helpful because it is all about that. Sure, it will turn your life into a dream if you don’t have to deal with the whining and too tired to get out of bed that can drain every ounce of your strength and patience. Truth is that routine and stability, reliability and consistency is comforting for your little or even big one.
Over the course of those last pre-school bell days, you’ll get them back into the hang of things incrementally, return days of the week and weekend to the norm, and get your chore schedule back on track. It’s that “slow and steady” easing back into the usual that helps it feel less jarring and tense. And it also turns those last days before walking the halls into something they become familiar with again so the transition feels more natural.
Second, (kids) Homework?!? ARGH!!! (Parents) Let’s do these things to keep your mind active.
When you’re of a certain school age, homework is a given. The entire summer, most of us are just kicking it with friends, traveling with our parental units, or taking summer school because, um, ya know, we have to. From the kid perspective, however, even the work we do in those classes isn’t anything like what we’re used to during the year and we’re in no way prepared for what’s to come when we go back.
Now, what we’re about to recommend is based on how daunting a task we as parents remember it being to get back in the swing of homework as kids. Ready? Okay. Have your kids engage in those things that keep their brains active during time off, tasks that require them to finish and show their work to you.
Before you go assigning your children summer essays on THE SCARLET LETTER or science experiments to present a la science fair, hear us out. This can range from art projects to homemade plays to writing short stories to reading a book made into a movie then seeing the movie and talking about the differences, etc. The list really does go on and on and, yes, also includes having your kiddo write an essay — my parents had me do that frequently throughout the summer but that’s a whole other story. The point is to find something that keeps their minds active, is goal oriented and requires some sort of accountability. It’s a way to prepare them for the focus of homework, the deadline and completion of it. Whatever makes sense for your own life and your own child, that’s what will work for you and yours. Just because I had to read and memorize THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupery at age 10, recite my favorite parts, and write a book report on it doesn’t mean you have to do that with your child. Really.
Third, (kids) I’m starting a new grade/school — I’m really nervous! (Parents) You’re not alone.
It doesn’t matter how much time you’ve been spending with your homies during the summer, every new school year is a new grade and sometimes that new grade takes you into a whole new school. Preschool to elementary to middle to high to college — those transitions are unique to themselves, but every single time you come off of a summer break, you’re entering an entirely new situation. It’s like changing jobs every 9ish months. For those of us who do freelance, this isn’t such a stretch, but for those of us who don’t? You can see how that can be a lot.
How do you prepare your child for the great unknown every single year? Don’t ignore or gloss over it. Acknowledge it. Let them know you understand how it must feel to go back after all that time, entering something new. It’s normal to feel nervous. Your child is not alone, so tell them that. Also, if they are returning to a school they’re friends also attend, you can remind them they have a built-in support system right there on campus. If they are entering a whole new environment where they know barely anyone or even no one, share how it’s normal to take a little time to get used to a new place and a new routine. In a wholly new situation it is also helpful to involve your kids in those activities you know they love and will get them in contact with children who share their interests. Nothing can make it all feel perfect and easy on that first day and understanding and even telling them that can be helpful.
Change takes time
As an FYI, we know college is a whole other ballgame. Living on their own for perhaps the first time, having to keep their own schedule, well, that’s an entire article all its own and we’ll get to that in a couple of weeks. For now, just know that moving from the relaxed atmosphere of summer days to the regimentation of the school year is a process you can manage by getting in front of it.
Every child is different and no one knows better what works best for you and your child in the new school year than you. You were once a kid and by recalling those things that stopped you in your tracks as you realized summer was coming to an end, you’ll help your own child get back in their usual rhythm that much easier.