As a parent, the start of a new school year brings up mixed feelings for me: On the one hand, our little ones will be back with friends and facing more challenges that help them grow. On the other — wow, have they been around the house a lot.
When I was a child, I loved summer because it meant staying up late, sleeping in and getting that one extra sweet before bed.
As a parent, however, the end of summer means putting an end to all of that and getting our children back on schedule, finding the balance between getting back on a routine and building excitement for the upcoming school year.
Below are four easy techniques that work for my children:
Gradually put them to bed earlier
When you’re young, you love the long, sun-filled days. However, as a parent, all that daylight becomes your mortal enemy.
To prevent shocking your family’s system on the first week of school, start easing back into a routine two weeks before the first day. Start by having your children get ready for bed five to 10 minutes earlier each night until you reach the ideal bedtime.
Be an early bird
As parents, we are the generals. The entire family suffers when we are late, irritable and too stressed. And really, how can we expect our children to be on a routine if we aren’t on one ourselves?
Start by getting to bed earlier. Rising earlier, even by a little, will help us get showered, dressed and caffeinated — and set a good example for our children. I highly recommend accomplishing as many things on your morning to-do list as possible before the children get up. For example, having breakfast ready, their lunches packed and their backpacks in the car are three fewer potential roadblocks as you start your day.
Establish a routine
Though they may resist, children respond best to routine. Predictability also helps to ease some of the stress that a new school year inevitably brings. I’ve had luck setting up a routine chart for my daughter that shows everything she needs to accomplish. She gets a sticker when she completes each task.
Interestingly, I found after a few days that she no longer needs to be told the items and the order and just does them on her own.
Make the weekends special
It may be tempting to pause the routine on the weekends, but I advise against it — any positive momentum you’ve made can be quickly undone, bring you right back against the eight ball Sunday night and leave you furious at yourself Monday morning.
At the same time, try making the most of the extra time. Ever since my children were very little, Sundays have meant dancing to classic soul music featuring favorites from Al Green, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and more while I make everyone pancakes, eggs and bacon. (If you need some recommendations, please don’t hesitate to email me. Just be prepared to get about four times the amount of music you expected.)
In the afternoon, we try to do something fun and memorable as well. Depending on the weather, this could be something fun outdoors such as swimming or going to the zoo or one of the bigger playgrounds my son is always eyeing. On bad weather days, we will go to a children’s museum or to “the big show,” aka what my children call the movies. Fun activities provide a good incentive to be well-behaved the next week. (Bribery is an underrated tool in the parenting toolbox.)
So, there you have it: just a few easy, actionable items that you can work into your life to make the end of summer a little easier.
For more sage advice from Tyler, read on:
- 3 Ways to Get Your Kids Involved During Football Season
- A Dad’s Advice on How to Raise Strong Daughters
- The Power of Toddler Compliments
Tyler Hartsook and his wife, Alison, have two great children, Avery and Christian, who are both Primrose students in Smyrna, Georgia. Tyler is paid for unique point of view on the world as a creative strategist at an advertising firm in Atlanta, but after 5 p.m. he turns into a jungle gym/wrestler/rock-paper-scissors champion/chef of peanut butter sandwiches. When he is finally off the clock, he loves watching sports, movies and whatever new show on Bravo Alison is making him watch. Follow along for parenting adventures and thoughts on life as a family of four!