With back to school lingering around the not-so-distant corner, I know a lot of parents are starting to feel the pressure beginning to mount. Heading back to school is both exciting and overwhelming for everyone involved, and even though we are now homeschoolers, we went through this all with my oldest when she was heading into pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade.
You want to make sure that everything is perfect and runs seamlessly, especially if you’re heading into elementary school for the first time or maybe when your not-so-little baby is heading into high school. You know there’s a lot that needs to be done, and there’s a lot that you need to be prepared for, but there’s also a ton of unknown things.
The good news is, this transition doesn’t have to be a hard one. There are little things that you can do now, to help get your whole family ready for the new year. From creating healthy morning routines, to establishing study routines, and healthy sleep habits, I’ve got tips to help you survive the crazy back to school blitz and look like a boss while you do it.
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Create Good Sleep Habits
Nothing is more important than sleep. When you haven’t had enough GOOD sleep, it will literally affect your entire day. Everything from motivation, to your ability to comprehend what you’re being told, to your mood, can all be affected by weather or not you’ve had enough sleep and the quality of that sleep. So I recommend starting now… yes even in the summertime… establishing a good, healthy sleep schedule. Especially for those teens heading into high school, where that 4:30 to 5:00 in the morning wake up may be a bit of a shock.
Opt for earlier bedtimes– I know, summer is the time of staying up late and having all of the sleepovers and nighttime fun, but trust me when I say, establishing an earlier bedtime now, will save you a lot of shock and crying later on. It doesn’t have to be putting your child to bed at 7 o’clock in the evening, I recommend looking at how your family works (your routines and schedules) and finding a good bedtime based off of that. For my family, we found that the perfect bedtime was between 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm. This earlier bedtime will help your child be able to get all of the rest that they need before the morning comes. If your child is already showing signs of sleep deprivation (things like morning grogginess, temper tantrums, poor focus, irritability, and even hyperactivity) work on going to bed earlier. Don’t just throw them in bed at 8:30 if they’ve been going to bed at 10:30 though. Work on moving the bed time 30 minutes early for three to four days, then again, adjust it 30 minutes earlier for another three to four days. You’ll eventually reach that perfect bedtime and will see a huge difference in your child’s behavior.
Be Consistent– It may be tempting to let your child stay up late on Friday or Saturday night, but it can honestly cause more stress and hassle than what it’s worth. It’s important, especially when you’re first trying to establish that bedtime, to be consistent. Trust me, I’ve been the parent that let my kids go to sleep whenever they wanted. I’ve also been the parent that had a strict bedtime during the week, then Friday and Saturday let them stay up and watch movies. What happened is that I ended up with grumpy sleepy kids that I had to fight with to get back to sleep on schedule come Sunday night. It just makes life easier for everyone, when they know that bedtime is at a certain time and that there are no exceptions.
Offer incentives– I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not above bribing my children. If offering stickers or a treat will help to make establishing a new routine easier, then buddy… I’m right there throwing all the stickers at the kid I can. On a more serious note though, offering an incentive can make a child, especially a younger child, more willing to go along with a change in routine. Set up a sticker chart, or maybe a marble jar, and offer rewards. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or a daily reward. Throw marbles in a jar and once the jar is full, they can pick out a small treat. My kids always enjoy getting little art kits from the Dollar Store or Hobby Lobby or maybe a candy bar.
Establish Healthy Morning Habits
Mornings can be rough for anyone, but having a good morning routine can make your whole day run more smoothly.
Be up before the kids are up– Now I know… this means getting up extra early, but you would be surprised at how much better your day will go, if you get up before the kids are up. I recommend getting up about 30 minutes before your kids. Fix yourself a cup of coffee or tea, meditate, or scroll through that Facebook or Twitter feed. Prepare for your day by reading through emails or establishing your to-do list for the day. This will allow you to have time to mentally prepare for your day and get ready before the day begins.
Turn off the distractions– Once the kids are up, turn off the distractions. Shut off the TV and silence the phone. Close your laptop, and make morning times before school about talking to your kids. This can help them relieve any nerves they may have about the upcoming day. You can help them review for an important test, or maybe just catch up. But having the distractions away will allow you devote that time to them.
Create a morning chore routine– I love a good chore chart. They help me keep everything organized and allow me to see exactly what I need to do that day. The same goes for the kids. So I recommend establishing a good morning chore chart for them. List out all of the things that you expect your kids to complete before school. So things like making beds, getting dressed, putting away toys, brushing teeth, brushing hair, eating breakfast, putting away the dishes, etc. This will allow your child to be more organized and to feel like they have accomplished something at the start of the day. It also allows them to take more responsibility for their day to day activities, which can make them feel like they are contributing more to the family. So it can help to boost their confidence and mood.
Set a timer– I don’t know about you, but mornings around here can really get away from us…fast. One minute you’re looking down and it’s 6:30, the next you check your watch and it’s 8:30 and you’re now running late. I recommend setting a timer on your phone so you can stay on track for your mornings. It can also help to signal to your kids when they need to do certain things when you set an alarm for things like wake up, time to get dressed and brush teeth, time to eat, time to clean, etc.
Plan ahead– Having the next day planned can make your day run much more smoothly. Block off 30 minutes each night for yourself to review what needs to be done that week and to set up tomorrow’s to-do list.
Set up a family command center– These are a great way to help the entire family get organized. Have a family calendar where you can list all upcoming important events and dates. You can also have a folder or inbox for things like permission slips that need to be signed or packets that you need to go through. Have an “outbox” where you can put those things that you’ve already gone through or signed for your kids to collect and take to school. Mail bins, a bin for each child to place important things, like homework, in so they don’t lose things and you can review the work. Meal planning and grocery lists or requests, a note board to pin things, and hooks to hang bags and jackets.
Establish a good homework routine– It may be tempting to want to complete homework as soon as your child gets home so that it’s done and out of the way, but I recommend holding off a bit. Allow your child to have a bit of a break between school and homework. Give them a snack and allow them to have a minute to unwind. Then get them to do their homework. And don’t think that all homework needs to be done at once. As kids get older, homework gets harder, allow your child to break homework up into manageable chunks so that they don’t become overwhelmed by their workload. This will also allow your child to have activity breaks, so if your child has a hard time sitting or staying focused for long periods of time, breaking up homework into chunks can give your child time to get up and move so they can stay more focused when they are working.
Set up a homework location– This can be anywhere in the house that will allow your child to complete their work with minimal distractions. This can be at the dining room table, a desk in their room, or a work space in the family office. I always like having the kids set up at the kitchen table while I’m making dinner so that they can do their work in a nice, bright, comfortable area and they are close enough to me while I’m cooking that I can help them when it’s needed.
If I can add one more bit of advice to this… be involved in your child’s education. Talk to your child. Listen to their concerns or fears. Let them tell you what they are enjoying or feel they are good at and try to help them find ways to expand on those. If they are struggling, try to find help either through the school or other programs. If they are overwhelmed, make sure to help them find ways to manage their time better. And don’t be afraid to speak to teachers and administrators if you see something isn’t working. Everyone wants to make sure your child does their best and has an amazing school year.
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