When the kids go back to school, it's time to reset their routine

When the kids go back to school, it's time to reset their routine

Winnipeg Health Region
Published Tuesday August 24, 2010

When it's summertime, the living is easy. The back to school rush in September means adjusting to new classes, new teachers, new schedules, and a new social scene.

In order to help your kids adjust to the new routine, of getting up, dressed, fed and out the door with all their school gear, here are some tips to make the transition from summer to school as successful as possible.

Keep it simple

Take the time to organize your child's school gear, both before school starts, and also every school night.

  • Get a backpack large enough to hold your child's belongings, but not too big that it weighs them down. If they eat lunch at school, buy a lunch kit that reduces the amount of material your kids are throwing into the garbage each day.
  • Laying out clothing for school the night before helps reduce morning stress, especially if your child is involved in choosing the clothes they want to wear.
  • Buy school supplies before school starts, although be prepared to go shopping again once school starts. Locker organizers are a useful tool for those in junior and high school.
  • Set up an emergency kit which contains items your child will frequently lose or misplace, including spare mittens, hats, shoelaces, eyeglasses, lunch kit parts, deodorant, an extra scribbler and pens and pencils.

"Parents lose things too, so have a spare set of keys where you can find them, your reading glasses, and something nice, like a Tim Horton's gift certificate, in case your day gets off to a challenging start," says Julie Sodomsky, a mental health clinician with Centralized Intake - Child and Adolescent Mental Health Program with the Winnipeg Health Region.

Eat, sleep, read

Beginning in August, start adjusting the time your child goes to bed and wakes up in the morning. Start tapering off their chance to sleep in and stay up late. Begin by having your child go to bed 15 minutes earlier and waking up earlier by the same time. Keep adjusting the sleep pattern by 15 minute intervals until you have your child on a school night schedule. A child who has had enough sleep is more likely to be awake in class and will retain more of what they are learning.

Summer holidays often mean a break from healthy eating, as your family indulges in treats like ice cream and chips. It's time to think about healthier food. Talk to your child about what they'd like to take in their lunch bag. Strive for well-balanced meals. Include a trip to the grocery store to talk about and buy healthy lunch choices, and then practice preparing the food at home with your child. For those days when everything is a rush, use a crockpot to make quick dinners.

"Your child may have done very little reading over the summer, so you'll need to ease them back into the academic swing of things. Take a trip to the library to check out some high interest books," says Sodomsky. "Read to your kids, especially at night when you are getting them to calm down and go to bed. Have them do mazes, word searches and sudukos, to help them practice school skills in a fun way."

Ease the anxiety

Going to school for the first time is a big step for the little ones. Changing from elementary to junior high is another. Kids have a lot of anxiety around going to school. The more you are available to talk to your child about their thoughts and worries about school, the more you can provide them the necessary support for success.

"When establishing a reasonable routine and structure to your family life in preparing for the school season, keep conversations open with your child. Some of their worries can be lessened by engaging in conversation," says Cheryl Chorneyko, a mental health clinician with the Student Mental Health Resource Team.

Some of those worries may include:

  • How to dress on the first day of school.
  • Where to eat lunch? How does the lunch system work?
  • What happens if I am late, can't find my class, or get lost?
  • Are teachers mean?
  • Is it easy to make friends?
  • What do I do if I can't open my locker or if I forget the combination?
  • What do I do about personal hygiene, like blowing my nose in class or asking to go to the washroom?

Visit the school with your child. For younger children, pretend it's your first day of school, and and have your child play tour guide. If your child is taking the bus, visit the bus stop go over bus rules. Older children may want to practice using their combination locks.

Routine, routine, routine

Once school has started, create a predictable structure for your child at home. This should include daily activities such as morning, after school and bedtime routines, and activities such as homework time, swimming, computer use, TV watching, lessons, other activities and regular family meal times.

Use a calendar to mark your child's activities and post it in a visible place. Designate a space for school bags, lunch kits and other equipment, and teach your child to put these items away at the end of the school day.

"Have a specific container or box that everyone's school notes go in. Teach your child to put all schedules and school correspondence into this box," says Sodomsky. "With everything in one place, there's no more running around. Just remember to take the time to look at this box nightly."

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