Editor’s note: This column was originally published in August 2019; it has been updated to reflect current events.
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 reestablishing a routine and building excitement for the upcoming school year.
Routine will be especially important this year, as children return to school in the midst of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
Below are four easy techniques that have worked for my children.
Gradually put them to bed earlier.
It’s an unofficial rule of summer: Bedtimes are taken a little less seriously. But to return to school, bedtimes and adequate sleep are so important.
To prevent shocking your child’s system during the first week of school, start easing back into a routine two weeks before the first day. Have your children get ready for bed five to 10 minutes earlier each night until you reach the ideal bedtime.
For more tips on getting your children back into the sleep groove, check out my thoughts on mastering bedtime routines and meditating with your children.
Be an early bird.
As parents, we are the generals. The entire family suffers when we are late, irritable and 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, if you have breakfast ready, their lunches packed and their backpacks in the car before they wake up, that’s three fewer potential roadblocks as you start your day.
Establish a routine.
Though they may resist, children respond best to routine. Predictability also helps 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 can check off each item with a sticker when she’s done.
Interestingly, I found after a few days that she no longer needs to be told the items or 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.
At the same time, try making the most of leisure time as a family. Ever since my children were very little, Sundays have meant dancing to classic soul music while I make everyone pancakes, eggs and bacon.
In the afternoons, we try to do something fun and memorable. Depending on the weather, this could be an activity outdoors, such as swimming or going to the zoo or one of the bigger playgrounds my son is always eyeing.
On rainy or cold days (before the pandemic), we would go to a children’s museum or the movies. You can do movie day at home, with theater-style treats, or work together to build an epic blanket fort.
For more about getting ready to go back to school, check out:
- Helping Young Children Transition Back to School
- Back-to-School Parent Resources
- Celebrate Back to School With 5 Crafts and Activities
Tyler Hartsook and his wife, Alison, have two great children, Avery and Christian, who both attended Primrose schools.
Find a Primrose School Near You
Inspire a lifelong love of learning. Contact your local Primrose to schedule a tour.Find A School