Come on, admit it. You intended to keep a schedule this summer, but when the kids slept in you liked the extra quiet time. Then the daylight lasted so long it was often later than you realized when the kids finally hit the sack. Not living by the clock was a refreshing change of pace, but school will be starting in a few weeks and you know the kids and you need to get back into the groove.
First, let me assure you, it’s healthier to have a flexible schedule than a rigid one. So have no guilt about your summer schedule. Just realize that the school schedule is a big change and you may need to assist the children in making the transition.
Like so many things in life, back-to-school time is an exercise in regaining balance. So here are some tips for making the transition a little smoother:
1. Brainstorm a list of activities to combat summer boredom that also build or keep school skills on track. That will prevent children’s brains from turning to mush and help them pick up where they left off in school.
2. Two to three weeks before school starts, start moving back to the school-year bedtime by half-hour increments.
3. At the same time, have the children wake up earlier each day, until they have gotten up at their regular school time for about a week.
4. Make a conscious effort to re-establish regular mealtimes and talk about their day.
5. Teach your children how to plan and pack a healthy lunch so they (and you) can be more independent. Brainstorm lists of the healthy foods they like, with separate categories for sandwiches, drinks, etc. Then children can choose one item from each category to create a variety of healthy balanced lunches. If they really want something unhealthy, limit it to one item each week, so it’s a special treat, not an everyday food.
6. Take them grocery shopping so they can pick out healthy foods for their lunch. The more children are involved and making choices, the fewer power struggles you’ll get into. They will also establish healthier habits and lifestyles, which will follow them into their adult years.
7. Teach children how to plan their schedules so things go smoother before, during and after school. Have them plan a way to remember their homework, lunch and backpacks each day. Also, when they will do their homework, play, eat, and do other activities. The goal is to complete responsibilities while maintaining balance, using good time management skills. Sound familiar? That’s what you have to do at work! Well school is children’s “work” and they need to take responsibility for it so they will be prepared for the real world. Planning for them deprives them of these learning opportunities. Teaching skills and letting them figure out a plan meets the goal.
8. Encourage them to organize their backpack and folders in preparation for that first big day. Again, this is their responsibility. Provide the necessary supplies so they can be organized. You can tell them what you would do, but need to let them figure out what works for them.
9. When school shopping, save their new clothes until the first day. This will give them something to look forward to.
10. Have children choose no more than two extra-curricular activities per season, so they don’t overdo themselves. Maintaining balance requires setting priorities and making choices.
Are you seeing some patterns in these tips? Effective transitions happen gradually and help prepare children for the impending change. By involving them in the planning and giving them choices about how the change occurs, they will manage the transition and change better. They’ll also learn important life skills and be more independent, responsible and confident. Every parent wants that — and future employers will value it, too!
For more information about child development stages or helping children work through their feelings, discover The Parent’s Toolshop®‘s unique Universal Blueprint® problem-solving system. Get the 7 Keys to Parenting Success ebook. You will be less frustrated, respond more calmly and feel more confident in any parenting situation.
Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is the author of the award-winning book, The Parent’s Toolshop and president of Parent’s Toolshop Consulting, where she oversees an international network of Toolshop® trainers. She has 30 years experience as a top-rated speaker and parenting expert to the media worldwide, including serving as the Co-Producer and Parenting Expert for the Emmy-nominated Ident-a-Kid television series. She has interviewed many parenting experts on her Parents Tool Talk radio show and is a parenting expert columnist. She has produced almost 100 multimedia resources, which are available at her award-winning website, www.ParentsToolshop.com.
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