By Colette Hapi
Summer is a time to play, to explore, to be outside, to have fun, and to carelessly throw caution to the wind. During summer vacation, time and structure often lose their meaning, and academics can be thrown to the side (right now, hundreds of kids are probably insisting that they’ll get to their summer homework eventually). With all of these things at play, it’s no wonder that the transition back into school can sometimes be physically, emotionally, and mentally hard for both kids and their parents. We’re about a month out from the start of a new school year, and as stores begin putting out their “Welcome Back to School” supplies, parents might be Googling “best ways to get my kid ready for school without losing my mind.” While every child responds differently, here are some of the methods that my mom used to help me get ready for that inevitable return to school.
- Fix sleeping schedules. About a week or so before the first day of school, my mom established new bedtime rules. No longer could I stay up according to my whims and wake up late; instead, she started to adjust my bedtime and wake-up time by about 15 minutes each day. I grumbled, but it did help my body’s internal clock readjust to school times. That first week of school wasn’t as bad as it could have been since my mom made me essentially practice waking up and going to bed early.
- Establish a routine. I don’t know about you, but my summers were usually unstructured. For the weeks that I didn’t have camp, I was free to sleep in as late as I wanted, go see my friends when I wanted (within reason, of course), etc. School is all about structure, so it can be hard for kids to get back into the habit of needing to transition from one class to another to sports to music practice and more. About a week or two before school starts, it’s helpful to have your kiddos practice a weekday routine. Even if it’s something as simple as having breakfast by X time, walking the dog at Y time, and doing chores at Z time, establishing a routine before school starts can make it easier to readjust.
- Reduce screen time. Back when I was a kid, screens weren’t nearly as prevalent as they are now. Sure, I occasionally played on the computer, but I had strict limits since doing so meant that I tied up the phone line. Nowadays, kids are on screens all the time, both for school and for fun, and they may use technology as an avoidance technique. With a new school year approaching, this is a good time to establish limits on weekday TV and technology use. Instead of limiting screens too quickly, try making a gradual transition, such as by switching out a video game or TV series for a non-screen hobby. This will be simpler than forcing kids to abruptly stop using TikTok or Minecraft! Incorporating board game nights with the family is another terrific approach to reduce screen time.
- Review ground rules. School might be the last thing on many students’ minds, but it’s something that they’ll have to grapple with sooner rather than later. And with that grappling should come a discussion of ground rules. Kids can feel blindsided if too many changes are made at once, so using those last few weeks of summer vacation to establish ground rules can help reduce resistance that they might muster. For example, my mom and I discussed whether I could watch TV once my homework was done, how late my friends could stay on school nights, and what chores I had to finish in addition to my homework. It’s not a fun conversation, but setting rules and discussing them together will ensure that everyone is on the same page once school begin.
The transition from summer vacation into the new school year can be hard, but there are steps that you can take to reduce extra stress! Let us know which method worked for you and how your kiddos are preparing to take the 2022-23 school year by storm.