5 Tips for Getting Back On Track For School
This summer has been a blast, with good weather and tons of fun with the kids. But as you turn the pages in your calendar you realize that school is right around the corner. And like most of us, summer fun has put our normal schedule a little out of whack. With both you and the kids staying up a little later and waking up later in the day than what the typical school day requires (especially for those of us with teenagers). Now, there is only a week until all of us have to get back to the routine of getting up early, getting to school, after school activities, and homework. Of course, there is the typical back to school shopping that needs to take place; new school supplies, new clothes, ect. But unfortunately this does not completely prepare the whole family to return to school, and doesn’t always make that first day back less tiring for everyone.
Here are 5 helpful tips to help everyone get back on track and ready for that first day of school.
1. Start practicing going to bed and getting up on time for school. Now this may be especially difficult for teenagers, who typically stay up late and wake up late in the morning (if not in the early afternoon), but they have the earliest start of all of the kids and need a great deal of sleep. Most research recommends that teenagers get anywhere from 9-10 hours of sleep minimum each night, which as most of us know does not happen for most of our teenagers, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good goal to shoot for. For our pre-teens and younger kids, research recommends anywhere from 10-13 hours of sleep, setting their bed time back even earlier. Most high schools start at 7:30ish, which means most kids are up around 6/6:30 in the morning to get ready and get to school on time. Which, once we do the math, means that our teens should be in bed by 9pm at the latest to get the recommended amount of sleep. I know what you’re thinking, that this is an unrealistic expectations for our kids, especially with after school activities, jobs, homework, and friends, but it gives us a good idea of what we should be shooting for with them. Starting from about a week before the first day of school, it can be helpful to slowly begin moving curfew and the “lights out” time earlier until you are as close as can get to the 9pm time with your teens, and even earlier for younger kids (You should shoot for bed time between 6 and 8 for your kindergarteners and first graders, and between 7:3- and 9pm for your elementary and middle schoolers). Same goes with waking up in the morning, instead of an 11am (or sometimes 1pm) wake up time, start steadily getting your kids up earlier and earlier, talking with them about the reasoning behind the change in their summer schedule. Remember, you can only do so much, especially if you are at work when your kids are home, but at least you’re trying to help them avoid the pain of that first day back wake up call.
Another good option to help with lights out would be taking away electronics at “lights out” time. With teenagers especially this may be a challenge, but removing their devices and access to social media when it is time to go to bed, will allow them to sleep without being interrupted by dings for social media, text messages, or phone calls from their friends or frienemies.
2. Organization! Now, this might look different for each family and even for each child in the family. This is especially important to keep in mind when you’re doing the back to school shopping. Will it help your teenager to have color-coded folders/notebooks for each subject? Would your middle schooler work better with a single binder for all of their subjects or individual ones? Is it good to have a homework folder for an elementary school child? All good questions that would have to be answered by each one of your kids. To help with organization, start with a conversation with your child before you go to the store, this way you guys will have a game plan in place to start off the year with your best organizational foot forward. Also, if your child has helped come up with the plan to organize themselves, they are more likely to stick with it than if we make a plan for them.
3. Healthy eating is another thing that can slip over the summer for most families. With road trips and snacking while out at activities or at home playing video games or watching movies, healthy food can get lost in the shuffle. Preparing to head back to school can also be a return to more set eating times, (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner) and having sit-down meals with the whole family. Lessening access to “junk food,” likes chips and sweets, and replacing them with healthier options like pretzels, fruits, and vegetables. Getting in the groove of healthy eating and connecting around the family dinner table prior to school starting can be a good way to get kids’ minds and bodies ready for school.
4. The summer time offers us a lot more time to be physically active with our kids. Whether we are playing out doors with our kids, swimming, hiking, or walking around on vacation, the summer allows more time for physical activity. But, in the rush of school, after school activities, jobs, and homework; physical activity can be lost for some of us. With all this on our plate, who has time to go to the gym, take a walk, or play outside? Research says that all of us should take 30 minutes a day to be physically active to provide the best health and wellness. Now, being physically active could be playing sports, which means if your child is part of a sports team they are set. But for those with kids who are not in sports; playing outside, walking, running, hiking, swimming, yoga, dancing, or so many other things can be done to reach this 30 minutes a day. Finding a time when your kiddo or you two together can be active after school each day can be incredibly important in so many ways. Before school starts, brainstorming with your kids to find activities that they like to do, alone or together, and finding good times to fit them in is important. Planning and organizing times for this and involving them will make it more likely that they and you stick to the schedule.
5. Finally, the last for getting ready for going back to school – relaxing time. After a long day at school, our kids want to come home and relax, unwind, disconnect from their day at school and should be allowed to do so. However, this does not mean that relaxation turns into 5 hours of video games or Netflix binge watching. Relaxation can involve some electronics time, but could also involve art, music, taking a hot bath, baking, cooking, talking to you or friends, or to kill two birds with one stone – physical activity. Whatever it is, we all need time to relax, and should take about 15-30 minutes each day to do so.