Summertime, and the livin' is easy... As much as we all cherish the carefree days of summer, by the time the September approaches, children are usually ready for the school year to begin. While summer brings a whole different kind of living-less pressure, fewer "have-to's," a more relaxed tone overall-many children actually thrive in the more consistent days of the school year (offset by a more relaxed weekend.) But getting back into the swing of things when school begins can be a challenge, for parents as well as for children.
A mindful transition from summer to the school year, done gradually and purposefully, will go a long way towards smoothing the start of school. But that transition starts before first day of school.
Here are some tips for starting the school year off smoothly:
Mind your attitude. Not all children are excited about the start of school, but a positive attitude can be contagious. Instead of saying things like, "Your teacher won't allow that kind of behavior in school" try being positive by saying, "I know your teacher will be so excited to hear all about our trip to the mountains." And "Your friends will be so excited to see you again. Wait until they see how high you can climb now."
Introduce what will be your child's school night bedtime before school starts. School age children need from 10 to 12 hours of sleep, and while they get that during the summer, it usually starts later than is good for a school night. Ten days before the start of school start bedtime 15 minutes earlier. Each night take it back a few more minutes, until you get to the desired bed time.
Introduce your school night routine at the same time, ten days before the actual start of school. While you may have allowed TV or tech time before bed in the summer, it may not be a great way to get your child calm and ready for bed on a school night. Go back to your routine of bath, books, and tuck time. Get back to your low key rituals that include an intimate bed time chat.
Adjust your morning routine. A week before school begins, introduce the school morning routine. A sure fire way to start the morning out right-without fights about clothing and the like-is to follow this schedule:
1. Snuggle time (reconnect after the night time separation)
2. Get dressed (your child chose and laid out his clothes the night before)
3. Eat breakfast, but only after he is dressed. (If you are worried that he will get his school clothes dirty, throw on one of your old tee shirts over his clothes.)
4. Brush teeth.
5. Bonus time! (a quick game of Go Fish!)
When the school year begins...
Do as much as you can do the night before. Help your child lay out his clothes; set the table for breakfast; make the lunches; put the grounds in the coffee maker; put trip slips, backpacks, and anything that needs to go to school by the exit door!
Set your own alarm clock earlier. I know you'll hate this one, and I am sorry. But hurrying is the enemy of children. Set your alarm clock 10 minutes earlier than you think you need. If you are not rushed, you will be more relaxed with your child. You will be just that much more available to your child, and he won't need to act out to get your attention.
Overestimate your family's prep time. However long you think it will take everyone to get ready for school...double it! If there is extra time, spend it doing something fun with your child. It will help to start his day off great. And it is much better than rushing your child.
Eat breakfast together. Spending a little quality time at the breakfast table together (not reading the paper, not checking email, not focused on the food that is or isn't being eaten!), goes a long way toward filling your child's tank. His moments with you will stay with him throughout his whole day, reminding him that he belongs to a family who loves him.
Originally published in 2010
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