back-to-schoolBack to School: Make a Routine and Ditch the Stress

Back to school can be a double-edged sword for parents. You’re happy to see your kids start a new adventure with a new teacher and new opportunities, but you struggle to get through the day without someone forgetting her lunch, losing his homework, or making dinner with enough time to get the kids bathed and in bed at a reasonable hour. Don’t lose hope. There is a way to banish most of the stress from back-to-school time: routines.

The need for a back-to-school routine

The chaos of bedtime, breakfast, clothes, lunches, homework, driving kids all over creation – it’s not easy for any family when school starts again. But, parents seem to panic more in September than in November simply because they enjoyed a summer break and don’t seem to remember how to do it all again once the school year begins anew. Take heart. The new school year seems daunting only because you have fallen out of a routine, and you need to get into one again as soon as possible.

Begin by establishing expectations with your children and aligning them within a routine. If your routine will involve making lunches the night before school, get kids involved in choosing lunch items to include and in packing their lunchboxes. Make sure your kids know you expect them to help and be prepared to guide them through the routine for the first few weeks of school.

Follow the same guidelines with homework, important papers, backpacks, and the like. Provide them with a space to do their homework, make a designated area to put important papers from school, and hang hooks on a wall or closet door to organize backpacks. Explain where they should put such items and when. Consider having kids share their papers with you as soon as everyone gets home and make it a part of the after-school routine, and, perhaps, set expectations for kids to complete their homework as soon as they get home.

By establishing a routine that aligns with your expectations, you will help your children manage their time and materials and get all of their important tasks completed in a timely manner. You also will help to eliminate lost papers, last-minute panic attacks about forgotten projects or permission slips, and confusion over which kids need a lunch for the following school day.

The importance of consistency

Keep in mind that your routine is just as important as your kids’ routine. By keeping everyone on track and sticking to the routine consistently, you will see the routine develop into a healthy habit for the entire family. It may be tempting to allow kids to stay up a little later at night or slack on homework time, especially if kids are complaining, but, consistency is key. If you show kids they can ignore the routine or disregard it, they will push back against it more frequently.

For example, your kids should have a consistent bedtime each night, as part of their back-to-school routine. This will help them wind down and prepare to sleep and it will also help them sleep better. You can guide them through this process by expanding the bedtime routine to include a snack before bed, a bedtime story, personal hygiene activities such as bathing, washing their faces, and brushing their teeth, and singing a song or saying their prayers.

Another way to remain consistent and stay on track with the routine is to have family dinners as close to the same time each evening as possible. While this may be difficult if kids have after-school activities, you can plan around them by doing an after-school snack before the activity and having a later dinner on practice and game nights. To save time, you could consider subscribing to a meal order service such as Blue Apron or Hello Fresh.

Other activities, such as dog walking and exercise routines should be as regular as clockwork from day to day. With an established routine, consistency, and expectations, you can eliminate the stress that accompanies back-to-school time. Be sure to guide your children through the routine and communicate your expectations to them clearly to transition to the routine as smoothly as possible.  And, enjoy a less stressful school year!

Joyce Wilson may have retired from teaching but that doesn’t mean she has lost her passion for education. On her site, TeacherSpark.org, she is working to build a resource of engaging lesson plans, activities, and other fun learning opportunities for her fellow educators and for parents.

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