How to Survive Back to School
An Office Supply Store created a commercial that sums up the feeling parents and kids have about Back to School. It starts out with the Christmas tune “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” There is a father riding around gliding like an ice skater on a grocery cart going school supply shopping. The children stand behind him pouting and sad. The father looks elated as he whizzes down the aisles to pick up pens, folders, and all the essentials. This commercial does an excellent job of summing up how most parents feel about kids going back to school. By the time August rolls around, kids are bored and grumpy and parents are ready to get back into a routine. The problem is now the kids have had months of sleeping in, endless free time, and all the fun that comes along with summer vacations. So are they mentally prepared to go back to school? Well it’s our job as parents to help them with this adjustment.
Practice putting them back on a schedule: Have a family meeting and inform the kids that the week before school starts you are going to start practicing getting in a routine for school. Prepare them to get all their sleeping in and free time done before that week. Come up with a schedule of activities to do throughout the day that are the same as the school hours. The activities do not include any type of electronics such as television or video game time. After all, they don’t have that during school. The week before school starts, set the alarms for the time they need to get up for school. Begin your breakfast routines including making lunches for school. Then when it’s time to head out the door, like you would for school, head to the library, park, or some other outing. This helps the family begin adjusting to the time it takes to all get out of the house. Take the lunches with you so you can have them for your scheduled lunch time. This also helps the kids learn if they packed enough food to get them through the day. If you include errand running in the daily routine like shopping for school supplies, clothes, or books, give the kids a list and a dollar amount. Use that opportunity to teach them about money, math, and budgeting. To help with adjusting to homework time, create an hour during after school hours for quiet reading time. This helps the kids not focus on when they can watch television and begin to accept that when school starts it is the priority, not leisure time.
Discuss the rules of the house when school resumes: For some reason kids will often experience amnesia during the summer. Or at least they claim too when they missed that first curfew time once school starts. During your family meeting discuss house rules that will change when school resumes. Include curfew times, grade expectations, chores and responsibility management, free time allowed after school with friends, bedtimes, etc. This alleviates the “I didn’t know” excuse kids often use to attempt to get a free pass.
Don’t forget yourself: Often as parents we get so focused on helping our kids adjust that we forget ourselves. Overwhelmed parents trying to parent overwhelmed kids is a recipe for disaster. Make a list of all the back to school errands that need to be done. Schedule them out so they are not all trying to be completed the weekend before school resumes. Plan your schedule for when school resumes. Even working parents get a break during the summer from the homework/dinner/after school activity rush race. Parents need to plan their free time for hobbies, exercise, and personal time back into the school routine.
Breathe: Make sure there is calm and down time in each day. We need to find time to breathe and relax. It is how our brain naturally calms down from all the stressors of our lives. The rush, rush, rush of all of the tasks we have to do each day can really take a toll on the family emotionally. Find 20 minutes a day in the family schedule that is relax time.